Home Blogs How Ministry of Urban Development in India is leveraging geospatial technologies

How Ministry of Urban Development in India is leveraging geospatial technologies

All the dope on the inspiring, entertaining talk by M Venkaiah Naidu, the Minister of Urban Development and Information Broadcasting, Government of India, at GWF 2017

Venkaiah Naidu at GWF 2017
M Venkaiah Naidu, the Minister of Urban Development and Information Broadcasting, Government of India, addressing delegates at GWF 2017

The $4 billion Indian geospatial industry is expected to become a $20 billion market by 2025, growing at a cumulative annual rate of 12-15%. Why does that not surprise us? Well, for starters, the estimated annual budget of government agencies for GIS services today stands at $3 billion. And the present government’s fervent push for leveraging space and location technologies for development and governance will only push that number up.

The Department of Space (DoS) has zeroed in on about 160 projects across 58 ministries and departments where space technologies can be used in the areas of natural resources management, energy and infrastructure, disaster and early warning, communication and navigation, e-governance and geospatial governance and societal services. The Indian Government has also launched several flagship programs that make use of geospatial technologies. These include the much-coveted Smart Cities program, skill development, Digital India, Start-Up India, Make in India, and the Clean Ganga project.

This euphoric sentiment was witnessed by several high-profile delegates, policymakers, academia, researchers, technology providers, solution providers, and end-user segments from the global geospatial community at the mega business cum technical event, Geospatial World Forum 2017, in Hyderabad today.

In his visionary address to the delegates, M Venkaiah Naidu, the Minister of Urban Development and Information Broadcasting, Government of India, underlined the fact that geospatial is an enabling technology which can be used for the betterment of the human civilization. “We are living in a new age, with new aspirations, new innovations and new inventions… All moving toward a smart future,” said Naidu, who was the chief guest at the event.

“A forum like GWF, that covers all aspects of geospatial technology, is very important and relevant. The theme of the conference — Geospatial + Deep Learning: Shaping Smarter World — struck me with a sense of realization that the human civilization has progressed tremendously,” Naidu said.

Venkaiah Naidu at GWF 2017
Venkaiah Naidu at the Survey of India exhibition at GWF 2017

Pointing out that we are hearing a lot of catchphrases today like the Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial intelligence, et al, Naidu stressed that after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, the political discourse has changed. “Development and speedy governance have become the buzzwords,” Naidu insisted. “Now we talk of MISIDICI: Make in India, Skill India, Digital India and Clean India. And for Digital India, geospatial is the basic enabling technology”

On a lighter vein, Naidu added, “The prime minister has given a three-fold mantra: Reform, perform, and transform. I have added ‘inform’ to the mix, considering I’m the Information Broadcasting minister.”

As the Information Broadcasting minister, Naidu places great merit on the importance of time. “If things are done in real time, there is no scope for delay, corruption or leakage. Innovations of today spell a great opportunity for the government of the day to implement and leverage them for day-to-day governance.”

Naidu also used the opportunity to make an interesting observation about India’s demonetization initiative, linking it to the 250 years of the national survey and mapping organization, Survey of India. “Just like Survey of India gives an address to the people living in a nation, this demonetization drive is like a ‘survey of notes’ that has identified the notes lying under people’s beds or in their bathrooms. The biggest achievement of demonetization is that every currency note today has an address — like geo-tagging — and the initiative has helped notes find their way back to the banks.”

Commenting out the massive urbanization going on in the country, Naidu quipped, “Urbanization is a very natural process. You cannot reverse it. Take me for example. Earlier, I was the Minister of Rural Development in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Today, I’m the Minister of Urban Development in the Modi government.”

Naidu also detailed the government’s focus on making cities more livable and urban life more comfortable. Nearly 606 million people are poised to live in urban centers by 2030 in India. India’s urban population, which comprises of the 11% of the world’s urban population, is to grow to 13% by 2020. “The need for effective urban planning has increased more than ever. Today, cities are built along highways, but, the next-gen cities will be built around optical fiber highways and places with good digital infrastructure. Geospatial science and technology are the means to realize this vision,” Naidu asserted.

The politician is also convinced that a new urban renaissance is taking place in India. When it comes to being called ‘smart’, cities have become quite competitive; they all want a good credit rating. “My ministry’s programs like Smart Cities, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) are poised to transform India. And the one common thread running through these projects is information and communication technology (ICT).”

Naidu called attention to the ministry’s recently-launched Google Toilet Locator app that helps users find the quickest way to a clean toilet. “This is a core example of how we are leveraging geospatial technologies to become more efficient. I’ve also suggested the municipalities to undertake geo-tagging of their employees, so we are aware if a cleaning person is working in his assigned area or not. People complain that cleaning personnel are there on the rolls, but not on the roads,” Naidu quipped to a rousing applause.

The brilliant orator wrapped up his address by inviting foreign investors to focus on India. “I’m told that the geospatial sector has a bright future; there is an opportunity for up to $500 billion in investments and thousands of jobs. India is the bright spot in the global turmoil today. We have the highest forex and the lowest inflation. And it’s not me who is saying this, the World Economic Forum is saying this, the Asian Development Bank is saying this. I urge you all to join the MODI movement: Making Of Developed India!”