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Forum traces ongoing evolution of ‘maps to apps’

Hyderabad, India: With geospatial applications increasingly becoming part of people’s everyday lives, geospatial data is becoming more important than ever. With the increasing importance comes the need for accurate and high quality data. Several issues pertaining to availability of the geospatial data through one strong repository were discussed in the symposium ‘Building National Geospatial Information Repository’ on the second day of India Geospatial Forum 2013, organised by Geospatial Media & Communications.

National GIS
Dr. R. Siva Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, National Spatial Data Infrastructure, India underlined the need for easy availability of data by observing that the need of the hour is “Maps to apps” – providing applications based on geospatial information rather than maps. Most of the times, people are interested in finding solutions to their problems rather than looking at data per se. With the extensive capability o GIS in many integrated applications, GIS is becoming a critical national infrastructure, demanding effective management. He informed the audience about National GIS, a new information regime offering GIS support decision services for governance, private enterprise and citizens and with a mandate to maintain a nation-wide standardised, seamless and most current GIS asset for the nation.

Taking further the discussion on National GIS, Maj Gen R C Padhi, Additional Surveyor General, Survey of India, elaborated on the role of Survey of India and the data asset building plan for NGIS. He informed that starting with immediate effect, the NGIS data asset will be built based on 1:50,000 geospatial data of Survey of India, which will be later replaced or upscaled with 1:10,000 data. He then discussed the technical details that this mechanism entails, including establishing data centres and virtual reference systems.

Benefits and return on investment of g-data
Just how much economic contribution can geospatial data make to national development was highlighted by Dr R Nagaraja, Group Director, National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), India. While informing the audience about the vast repository of geospatial data with NRSC and the national mission programmes in which they are finding use, he shared with the audience the potential economic benefits of the use of this data in different ways. For example, in the National Drinking Water Technology Mission, where the benefit is the cost saving due to increase in success rate, the potential benefit to the country in the long run is to the tune of INR 5,000-8,000 crore. Similarly, in the programme “Horticultural Development in Land With and Without Shrub”, the potential benefit is in the range of INR 13,000 – 26,000 crore.

With governance being one of the key applications of geospatial data, Dr. PK Srivastava, Managing Director, Geospatial Limited, detailed the potential and application of geospatial data in various aspects of governance in Delhi. Some such instances are flood level demarcation, since the city is on the banks of Yamuna river, addressing water logging, property tax assessment where 3D data is playing a crucial role as it gives information on the number of floors in a building, and drainage and sewerage planning by overlaying 3D buildings on classified digital elevation model. This data is also being used to assess land transformation over the years.

Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse, Executive Consultant & Practice Leader, Spatial Information, Sinclair Knight Merz, Australia, demonstrated how spatial information can be used to build sustainable water resources, with special reference to groundwater management. He presented an integrated spatial data model for managing bore strategraphic and hydrological information and the establishment of National Groundwater Information System and National Aquifer Framework by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The way forward in this direction is 3D GIS for groundwater comprising of 3D geometry, 3D topology, semantics and appearance.

Industry perspective
With the evolving dynamics of geospatial data, Rajesh Mathur, Vice Chairman, NIIT GIS, India, discussed the shifting paradigms for the national custodians of this data, the national mapping organisations (NMOs). According to Mathur, the evolving vision for NMOs should be to get data GIS-ready, moving from “mapping” to providing spatial datasets, and embracing new paradigm of structured workflow, geo-spatial production mapping system, and data dissemination. One of the key requirements in moving in that direction is an integrated geographic platform that leverages the new medium of intelligent Web services.

Mladen Stojic, Vice President – Geospatial, Intergraph, quoting philosopher Senaca, observed that “information has meaning and gives power only when shared and distributed. Information, in and of itself, has no value.” He then shared his views on pre-conditions to success for private sector involvement in national repositories. He observed that a “national repository” needs to become a key component in a ‘dynamic ecosystem’ providing a marketplace to find, use and publish services. He suggested a transactions-based model for selling value added geo-processing services. In other criteria, he said that content updates need to be more frequent and stability and availability of services need to improve. Citing the parallel of Apple, he said that just like Apple is one stop shop for various entertainment needs and services, there geospatial data users should be able to have their various geospatial data requirements met at one place.

Elaborating on the industry requirements pertaining to GIS data in a national repository, Dr. Aniruddha Roy, Vice President, Navayuga, suggested that the industry wishes for a seamless data as well as integration with third party solutions. Some of the key criteria to consider regarding data in a national repository are the format and standards. Deliberating on whether national geospatial data repository should be centralised or distributed, he advocated for a hybrid approach where all the national data producing agencies sync their data to a central server from where further authentication can be done and data picked up as per requirement. He also urged for a mandate for quality checks before data is loaded in the servers. He also said that the challenge is to use multiple technologies and achieve interoperability without loss of data.

Shivalik Prasad, Executive Director, MapmyIndia presented an overview of the enterprise deployment of geospatial data. He observed that India has not has a strong tradition of business enterprises offering geospatial data-based solutions as is the practice in developed nations. That is changing now though, he observed, with geospatial data becoming more popular through platforms like Google Earth, as well as with business enterprises looking at solutions to optimise their businesses. He then detailed the audience about the enterprise maps platform offered by the company.

Source: Our correspondent

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