His Coordinates, Interviews

“The NGIS and NSDI complement each other”

Dec 2011 | No Comment

Dr R Sivakumar

CEO NSDI & Head NRDMS Division,
Department of Science & Technology, Government of India

What are the achievements of NSDI?

The most important achievement of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) has been bringing together many agencies to work for a cause. It had not been easy and it took more than ten years to reach at this stage. In addition, we were involved in the standards development activities of NSDI for Metadata (2005/2009) and National Spatial Data Exchange Standards (NSDE- 2003). NSDI is seen as Standards organization and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is in the process of constituting a mirror committee for ISO TC 211 with NSDI as anchor. We also initiated efforts for development of Content Standard. India GeoPortal, today, provides metadata of many agencies and offers OGC compliant services such as WMS, WFS, WCS and WMTS. WMS offered by SOI and NRSC together provide topographical data of 1:50,000 scale and satellite images in an interoperable manner. GSI and FSI will also provide WMS very soon. This is a step towards realizing our vision of making the geospatial data available and accessible by creating a policy environment, evolving standards and developing the necessary tools and technologies through a process of consensus building. We do organize annual conferences to keep the discussion and momentum alive. The NSDI secretariat has been actively involved in evolving National Map Policy, Remote Sensing Data Policy and in drafting National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy(NDSAP). There were initiative taken by other organizations as a result of our activities, for example; the Geological Survey of India Portal and some state portals like in Karnataka. District Geo-portals were also conceptualized and demonstrated. A number of research projects have been undertaken besides establishing centres of excellence at IITs/ Universities. NSDI has also prepared data models and procedures for mapping on 1:10,000 scale. NSDI is now embarking on creating a States Geospatial Data Council (SGDC) to establish SDIs in all states. NSDI has also developed a number of tools such as conversion tool for Everest to WGS 84, Ontology etc. Consultancy Development Centre (CDC) of Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) carried out a detailed study on the expectations of stakeholders and the aspiration of NSDI and its agencies as shareholders. This aspiration documents is just released and has set our agenda for 2020 while carrying out a detailed SWOT analysis. We are now working towards migrating from e -Governance to G- Governance.

Would you like to highlight the findings of aspiration document?

The society needs products and not data alone. It is the time for the NSDI to migrate from ‘data domain’ of enabling infrastructure to ‘product domain’ of a performing infrastructure. The report suggests that in geospatial product space, the NSDI will have to evolve workable and synergizing relationships between itself, BIS, data generators, geospatial product developers, hardware manufacturers, cell phone and smart phone manufacturers, communication service providers in addition to the users.

What NSDI could not achieve?

Let us understand the challenges first. The worst part of the NSDI initiative was that it was being mistaken as the Department of Science and Technology (DST) project. The other challenges were empowerment of authority and mandate, human resources and support from the industry. NSDI made an attempt two years ago to develop a Geospatial Decision Support System (Geo DSS) and had to give up due to inadequate response. We should also look at small investments made in NSDI and the outcome which is far disproportionate as NSDI is, today, seen as gateway for spatial data in India.

How do you see the initiative regarding National GIS? What structure you propose between NSDI and NGIS?

The National GIS (NGIS) and NSDI complement each other. NSDI could be an enabling mechanism for providing standards, interoperability, research and capacity building and INGO could provide the national GIS platform for crucial Geo DSS applications based on national GIS Data Asset for governance, enterprise and citizen services. The INGO could have the flexibility and efficiency of private sector while the NSDI could provide the rigors and authenticity of the Governmental processes. In my personal view, INGO board could be the part of NSDC with CEO of INGO working under an autonomous organization. In my view, INGO evolved from NSDI and National GIS will be a non starter without NSDI.

What according to you should be the NGIS mandate?

The NGIS should focus on providing solutions. It should seriously deliberate on Geo DSS as users would like to have the solutions for problems at hand rather than data, hardware and software. We need to develop Spatial Information Processing (SIP) Models to provide automated responses to user queries, both through cell phone and web in local language. Thus there is a need to have a Geo ICT solution for spatial data similar to the Apps of iPAD. In NSDI experience, organizations were reluctant to even share their metadata. If NGIS has to focus on applications and services, these data would play a key role. To avail these data may itself be a challenge.

Based on your NSDI experience, what technology platform should be used by NGIS for cost-effective implementation and optimum value for users?

It is premature to suggest a technology platform though there were suggestions to use ‘geo clouds’. The data providers need to get reassured about data security. At the user level, we need to explore the open source as it would not be possible to replicate the software licenses in large numbers. In any case, the ISO/TC 211 and OGC compliant products, services and solutions should be the main requirement to ensure interoperability.

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