Growth, data sharing, policy issues highlighted at Intergraph Meet

Growth, data sharing, policy issues highlighted at Intergraph Meet

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Hyderabad, India: A push for technology-enabled growth, data sharing and policy issues highlighted the Intergraph Users’ Conference 2013 held in Hyderabad on Monday. The underlying theme of the conference, Geospatial Technology Influencing India’s Future, was on every speaker’s agenda as they highlighted the achievements, challenges and the way forward. Speakers across government departments and private players across various sectors and verticals highlighted how geospatial technology was a growth driver and helped in effective planning.

Intergraph Country Manager Kaushik Chakraborty announced that Ajay Seth, Managing Director of Elcome Technologies, a Hexagon group company providing surveying and measuring solutions in India and neighbouring countries, will head the group in India. Intergraph president John Graham announced the launch of Intergraph Geospatial 2013 in India. The product portfolio, which was first launched in Kolkata on January 15, is the first and only comprehensive solution that connects all geospatial genres, integrating photogrammetry, remote sensing and GIS into a streamlined system from the desktop to the server. It enables customer to use the information contained in multi-source content, share it rapidly and deliver it on-demand. Graham demonstrated how the company has built in modern, creative and highly intuitive interfaces into the software, as well as smarter workflows.

Highlighting the importance of geospatial technology in development and sustainable growth, Intergraph Vice President Mladen Stojic talked at length about the technology and the Intergraph product portfolio in particular, helping deliver better governance and seamless implementation of development projects while empowering governments and businesses.

Surveyor General Dr Subba Rao underlined how Survey of India (SOI) is adopting latest tools to make its mapping and surveying works up to date. “Earlier it used to take us several weeks, even months, to update our maps and data. But the latest technology helps us generate data in days. It is also useful in managing storage.” SOI is increasingly using high resolution satellite imagery as part of its work, which is a major tool for its latest job – mapping the country at 1:10,000 scale. Speaking on National GIS (NGIS), Dr Subba Rao said SOI is using the latest technology for this and it would help the country move from e-governance to g-governance. SOI has been entrusted with the responsibility of launching the project and the XII Plan has sanctioned INR 2,500 crore towards this end. “These two exercises (NGIS and 1:10,000 mapping) will change the entire scenario in this country. Once these are finished, we will have authentic and accurate geospatial data on 1:10,000 scale for the entire country, which will be the base for 80-90% of the developmental activity taking place,” he said.

Bhuvan – A unique product
National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) Director Dr V.K. Dadhwal outlined the current trends at the centre and highlighted how it has helped various government departments in executing their welfare programmes. Speaking on Bhuvan, Dr Dadhwal said Bhuvan is a unique product – it is rich in information, the number of resource layers in it is very large and it also allowed free data downloads. Highlighting new initiatives of NRSC, Dr Dadhwal said a centre on climate studies would come up soon. NRSC is also working on establishing a national disaster database for making data available required for disaster response.

Dr Shiv Kumar, head of NSDI and NRDMS, said people are not bothered about data and data sharing. They do not want maps, hardware or software – ultimately they want solutions of their problems and that can happen only with apps. So the next step would be to launch a domain of apps and for that we have to launch a technology platform which the national GIS will provide. The government has sanctioned INR 3,000 crore to generate apps which will provide solutions to people’s problems. However, he also underlined that even when we are migrating into the domain of apps, data remains the backbone of that. For that data sharing and integration, standardisation and interoperability are key issues. That is why the government had launched the National Data Sharing Policy which will come into force soon. The data.gov.in also is an initiative in this direction. “We are also looking at a national data repository and a national data platform. And all this will be possible if only we have the right kind of people. So, we need capacity building in this area,” Dr Shiv Kumar said. The Government of India has recognised this and a national taskforce on geospatial education strategy under Dr Kasturirangan has been set up to address this issue which estimates that we need about 500,000 people in the next couple of years. Announcing that a Centre for Geospatial Excellence will come up at IIT Hyderabad soon, Dr Shiv Kumar urged the private sector to come forward and join hands with the government in such initiatives.

GIS aiding development work in Northeast
Dr S Sudhakar of the Northeast Space Application Centre, presented how the centre is using spatial data in each sphere of development work in Northeast. However, his main concern remains getting the local departments to accept this work. “Otherwise whatever data we collect and accumulate, it will amount to nothing,” he said. Creating awareness and involving local departments are the only way to take this forward. Presenting his case, Dr Sudhakar said Northeast states are small and remote but are rich in natural resources – minerals and water. But lack of proper planning and development had led to problems like natural disasters and loss of biodiversity. Today, geospatial technology is being used by the planning and development agencies in the region from agriculture, road planning, flood management, mining to forest resource management. The Flood Early Warning System in Assam is an operational activity taken up by NESAC which has recently been shortlisted for the Prime Ministers’ Award. Major initiatives undertaken by NESAC include maps at 1:10,000 scale for the forest department in four states and NER-DRR (North East Regional Node for Disaster Risk Reduction) which will be launched soon. NESAC has taken the first step and has collected and collated data from all departments concerned.

Need for strong GIS policies
Hemant Kumar, Fellow & Principal Investigator – NRMDS representing Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology, made a strong call for strong polices for adopting GIS. “In two decades, we really haven’t achieved much. Seamless, standardised digital database is not available. Unless government programmes are mandated to use GIS, it will not be part of workflow,” he said, pointing out that it is being followed very well for election data gathering because the election commission has made it mandatory.

Kumar also made a case for involvement of the general public in data collection process. “Citizens are largely not covered – there is no database, no services targeting them. Unless we do not make data and services popular, Google and GPS will continue to rule with the public.” To address this issue, Karnataka has ventured on a crowd sourcing project to collect local level data from people using mobile and smart phones.

Almost on a similar note, Amiya Kumar Mohapatra, Director, Orissa Space Application Centre (ORSAC), said when the centre had done resurvey and updation of cadastral maps as part of the National Land Resource Management Programme in Orissa, they were not sure if those maps will ever be used by the state government. “There were doubts. We were told by the officials that RoR was sacrosanct,” Mohapatra said. Today, he almost sounds vindicated when he says the state government finally adopted the Odisha Special Survey and Settelment Act in July 2012 which provides legal coverage for conducting resurvey by adopting modern technology in the entire state. “Now they have to listen to me since it is a law,” he said.

Earlier, Intergraph’s Dwaipayan Dighal, who was giving a presentation on how geospatial technology was effectively used in disaster management, virtually admitted that policy issues are holding back implementation of various latest technologies. After his presentation when asked by a delegate as to how India was using this technology for disaster management, Dighal said it was still to be implemented in India. A lot of developed countries are using this because mapping, data management and coordination between various state and central agencies are in place there. “In India, we still lack that kind of cohesiveness,” Dighal said, adding that he got stuck in Cyclone Aila some years back and witnessed how disjointed the whole alert and rescue operation was. “There were SMS alerts that the water level was going up, but villagers didn’t know which was higher level and hence safer,” he added.

Among others to speak, Dipak Banerjee of the Calcutta Electricity Supply Corporation highlighted how the country’s oldest network, which incidentally was the first to implement GIS in 2002, is making use of the technology in its work.

Dr P.V. Rajasekhar of Survey of India, gave an interesting presentation on how once the NGIS is in place can be further given shape and made more dynamic.

N.P. Singh of the Central Mine Planning & Design Institute explained how CMPD has used geospatial technology in areas such as coal-fire mapping, the World Bank-funded SODIC land mapping in Uttar Pradesh, environment management planning, land use/cover pattern, watershed management, among others. A massive project on which CMPD is working is site selection and route alignments for Central Electric Authority. It is also using geospatial technology for updating topographical maps and vegetation maps of major coalfields.

Source: Our Correspondent