View from India: National Geospatial Policy promises citizen-centric approach

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has last week notified the National Geospatial Policy 2022. Long-term goals have been laid out for the development of the geospatial industry.

A 13-year guideline has been formulated for the development of the geospatial data industry in the country. A national framework is also in place. The government plans to develop a geospatial knowledge infrastructure by 2030. This is expected to happen with the establishment of an Integrated Data and Information Framework. By 2035, it is envisioned to leverage geospatial data for mapping the sub-surface infrastructure in major cities and towns across India. It’s not just terrestrial but geospatial data’s high-resolution accuracy could also contribute towards the betterment of the blue economy. For instance, the Bathymetric Geospatial Data of inland waters and sea surface topography of shallow waters or deep seas could help in building a blue economy.

Geospatial technology is vital to the overall economy of the country. Its applications are diverse, ranging from agriculture to industries, as well as being an important guideline for the development of urban or rural infrastructure. India is already home to a community of geospatial start-ups that have demonstrated the applications of geospatial technology by focusing on waste resource management, forestry, urban planning and road mapping. As reported in the media, the country’s geospatial economy is expected to cross ₹ 63,000 crore (630bn rupees, or approximately £6.3bn) by 2025 at a growth rate of 12.8 per cent. It is also projected to provide employment to more than 10 lakh (one million) people mainly through geospatial start-ups. No surprise that the policy plans to promote a national digital twin. This can be understood as is a virtual replica of a physical asset, process or service that lies at the core of the new digital revolution, facilitating better decision-making for all kinds of facilities and services in urban areas. Seen in the geospatial context, the twin could give clarity on infrastructure-related issues for policy makers.

As indicated in the Policy, geospatial data is now widely accepted as a critical national infrastructure and information resource with proven societal, economic and environmental value that enables government systems and services, and sustainable national development initiatives, to be integrated using ‘location’ as a common and underpinning reference frame. The National Geospatial Policy 2022 is a citizen-centric policy that seeks to strengthen the geospatial sector to support national development, economic prosperity and a thriving information economy.

The Policy recognises the importance of locally available and locally relevant maps and geospatial data in improved planning and management of resources and better serving the specific needs of the Indian population. The Policy could be a move towards Atmanirbhar Bharat, or Self Reliant India. Accordingly, an ecosystem will be created to facilitate Indian companies to use their own geospatial data/information and also compete with international companies in the global space.

Data and information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is being planned. This could be executed through the custodianship model and data supply chain to enable best practices in collection and management of geospatial data/information and availability of quality, real-/near-real-time data/information that will be appropriate to ensure cross sector and multidisciplinary collaboration involving all stakeholders. An integrative interface for all digital data is in the offing.

The creation and execution of data and ICT infrastructure in itself could open new jobs. The intent is to have a thriving geospatial industry in the country, wherein the private sector will play a role. The needs and requirements of the citizens related to various geospatial/location-based solutions will be serviced by the private sector, with Survey of India and nodal ministries and agencies of various geospatial data themes playing a facilitative role. The private sector may play a key role in creation and maintenance of geospatial and mapping infrastructures, innovations and process improvements, and monetisation of geospatial data.

The government had liberalised the use of geospatial data under the draft geospatial data policy in February 2021. Now, through the Policy, the government will constitute a Geospatial Data Promotion and Development Committee at the national level; this will be the apex body to formulate and implement guidelines, strategies and programmes to promote the geospatial sector.

A workforce with the know-how of geospatial space is required to take geospatial requirements forward. As of now, geospatial education is imparted in around 200 universities and institutions at different levels in colleges, universities, Industrial Training Institutes and National Skill Training Institutes. In due course, this will be backed by geospatial science education programmes that could begin at the school level and go on until degree level. As a capacity building initiative, the government intends to promote cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in geospatial science and technology.

Here’s Wishing You a Happy New Year.

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