Strengthening state governments with g-tech

Strengthening state governments with g-tech

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Hyderabad, India: The second day of the India Geospatial Forum 2013 saw eminent personalities deliberating upon the plan of action for harnessing the potential of geospatial technology for development at the state level. The stalwarts also discussed how geospatial technology can be put into action so that its benefits reach the last mile.

The panel had eminent personalities participating from the State governments like Bipul Pathak, IAS, Secretary-IT, Jammu & Kashmir and Sanjay Jaju, IAS, Secretary-IT, Andhra Pradesh and from geospatial industry like S Sridhar, President & COO, Esri India, Kaushik Chakraborty, Vice President, Hexagon India, Prof Arup Dasgupta, Managing Editor, Geospatial World and Dr CR Bannur, Senior Divisional Director, Enterprise GIS& Defence Solutions, Rolta India.

Opening the panel with his observations, Sridhar opined that geography as a platform is definitely helping and paving way for effective governance. “The world today is facing many different challenges, and each geography poses a different set of challenges, requiring effective mechanism of governance. This requires much greater knowledge and awareness of the ground realities, planning and collaborative action. Technology enables measuring, organising and analysing data which is available with us. Today, we have effective tools and they are proving valuable in decision making. A seamless, standard based, citizen friendly state GIS is required now,” he said.

He then gave a roadmap for a successful GIS-enabled state under which all e-government projects are geo-enabled; standards and framework are set, federal models are used for effective sharing and usage of data; focus on training and capacity building is on a continuous basis.

Pointing that India has been using geospatial technology for two decades now, Dr Bannur felt that a lot has changed and there is an imminent need to have some standardised infrastructure through which application services can be delivered. If central government is responsible for the implementation of watershed or infrastructure projects, the guidelines need to be given by it while the location specific data should come from the state governments. He stressed that there is a need to have a good handshake between the state governments as well as the Union government. According to him, it is not data alone that is important, but leveraging the existing data and creating updating mechanisms is also important.

Describing the geospatial initiatives in Jammu & Kashmir, Bipul Pathak drew the attention of the audience to the fact that there is a wide gap between states which are geospatial haves and geospatial have nots. He informed that lot of work has been done by some of the research institutes in J&K, making use of of geospatial technology in development planning, forest management, water bodies management, mapping of social infrastructure, health institutes, school education and infrastructure.

However, he felt that in most of the states, sporadic activities are happening in terms of implementing geospatial technology. There is no coherence in the efforts, no clear path. Several issues including interoperability of datasets, availability of capacity, funding are impeding the speed of the projects.

Saying that the use of technology is not changing at the same pace as the technology is changing, Kaushik Chakraborty felt that we are starting a journey without knowing where to go. Today, industry is largely driven by vendors. Today, everyone is obsessed with data. And even if it exists, it is in silos. The vision and expectations of decision makers are different from the capabilities and ownership of the implementing agencies and there exists a huge gap between the vision and action. He stressed that it is important to turn data into actionable knowledge by the state governments. Programmes are becoming larger but at the end of the day India’s strength lies in its panchayats and what is relevant for them is power, water, transportation and safety, where geospatial technology can play a critical role.

Underscoring that the states should lead in owning the responsibility in integrating geospatial systems into the governance system, Prof Arup Dasgupta said time has come to integrate IT and IT-enabled services so that each can take benefit from the other. Any initiative should not stick out as one of its kind but should be absorbed by the states. It is necessary that industry develops applications and evolve a revenue model so that both the parties are benefited. He also stressed on the need to revamp geospatial courses and make them practical so that the output of the institutes can be readily absorbed by the industry.

Acknowledging that geospatial technology is abundantly talked but grossly underutilised in government systems, Sanjay Jaju informed that even in the country’s GIS capital of Hyderabad, though IT is being used in several e-governance applications, geospatial technology is still not lapped up at that scale.

Pointing out several challenges the state faced in implementing the Bhu Bharati project of modernising land records system on a pilot basis in one district, Sanjay opined that administrative structures need to be created for the smooth flow of any project. Opening up the project data to the general public, creating value out of it and marketing the results of the projects across the governments are the way forward for the success of the projects, according to him. This is one way of expanding the scope of geospatial technology in government departments.

The panel discussion provided a good snapshot of the geospatial initiatives taken up by the state governments and the challenges in implementing the same. It also brought to the focus the paucity of applications while there is glut of geospatial data. The panel unanimously stressed that it is time to start using the existing data and create more value out of the same.

Source: Our Correspondent

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