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Media Lab Asia and CSDMS launch world

At the Elitex exhibition organised by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India, Media Lab Asia launched the world’s first open-source Geographical Information System (GIS) software for handheld computers.

The software, GramChitra, has been developed in collaboration with research partner, Centre of Spatial Database Management and Solutions (CSDMS). GIS software enables creation, storage, editing, and accessing of map related databases for visually intuitive and effective decision making.

GramChitra has been developed on the popular Linux operating system to serve as a cost effective means of enabling community level resource management. The software has vast potential applications in areas like census data collection, revenue maps, block-and panchayat level planning for water wells, tube wells, epidemiological data collection for rural healthcare etc.

Typically, the cost of GIS software on PC starts at around Rs. 65,000 and goes up to Rs. 4-5 lakh. Media Lab Asia has decided to release GramChitra free of cost in order to promote the use of GIS software for developmental purposes. The software can be downloaded from https://www.csdms.org/gramchitra.

Speaking at the release of the software, Prof. Alex Pentland, Director, Media Lab in Asia said that GIS software can serve as a fundamental tool for planning at all levels. “We developed GramChitra on the open-source platform to ensure that this technology can be used at the grassroots level for strategic planning.”

Ravi Gupta, Director of CSDMS said that GIS software like GramChitra is an example of how IT can be used to help the masses. “Maps can be an effective way to collect data and simultaneously display results. Simple national maps are a good starting point for identifying and planning basic village resources. We have worked with village youth and school children to bring about awareness of the utility of maps using the GramChitra software. Henceforth, GIS software need not be limited to scientists and technologists.”

Media lab Asia has also integrated GPS (Global Positioning System) with the GramChitra GIS Software. Users can automatically incorporate on a map, the date, time, location where the data is captured. In future, GramChitra’s capabilities will be extended to support data collection using low cost sensors for water and soil analysis, meterological data, livestock management, environment and ecological conservation and planning etc.