Perspective


Challenges before National Mapping Organisations

Feb 2009 | No Comment

Vanessa Lawrence CB, P Nag, Lam Joon Khoi

NMOs working in isolation are no longer a solution

Dr P Nag

Director, National Atlas & Thematic Mapping
Organisation (NATMO), India

For any institution challenges are all the time. In the history of institution building challenges are considered to be opportunities. These opportunities are to be encashed in time with right vigor. The institutions have to keep on shifting their focus within their mandates. Same is true for the national mapping organizations (NMOs) in India. If we see the growth patterns of the Indian NMOs, Survey of India and the National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO), we will find that former got impetus during the 1961 Indo-China war; and latter after independence when the country required maps different from topographical maps for national reconstruction and planning. Both were challenges during those times.
The biggest challenge before the NMOs is the management of such institutions. These challenges have come due to (a) reducing manpower, (b) fast changing geospatial technology, (c) new data sources, and (d) new market and application driven requirements. The scenario is changing so fast that the manual, procedures and training become out-dated in no time. NMOs are used to have their own traditions in map-making. It has become difficult to hold these traditions. However, the core properties of the data are still maintained, whether required or not. Nevertheless, such stringent criteria are not always appreciated.
Due to the nature of demand, security priorities and requirements for openness of geographic data, a new Open Map Series (OSM) has been initiated by the Government. This has increased the workload on Survey of India at least five times due to : (a) digital data of OSM, (b) digital data of the Defence Map Series (DSM), (c) hard copy of OSM, (d) hard copy of DSM, and (e) maintaining of the National Topographic Data Base. Though technology is reducing the workload, the depleting strength is coming in the way. The story of NATMO is also not different. The Golden Map Service has increased the workload several times.
Perhaps one solution is to out-source the mapping activities to the industry. Considering several projects which have either been completed recently or now under-completion, we find that there is a gap in understanding between the NMOs and industry. The NMOs are tied down with rules, procedures, method of acceptance of data and mode of payments. These regulations are not

The issue is whether NMOs can cope up with the everincreasing expectations of the Government and the people at large?

always appreciated by the industry. A new method of sharing responsibility is to be worked out. Some models are being practiced by the NMOs but they are not always foolproof.

The issue is whether NMOs can cope up with the ever-increasing workload and expectations of the Government and the people at large? What kind of control they should exercise? How the responsibility about the quality of the geographic data is to be shared? What should be the model of participating in this national task? How a revenue model is to be worked out? Examples from abroad are often quoted to answer these intricate questions. But the prevailing conditions are not similar.

A serious debate is required in this regard. Even several surveys of geospatial industry conducted recently are silent on this subject. NMOs working in isolation are no longer a solution for India.

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