India’s NSDI – Back into the future

Jul 2006 | Comments Off on India’s NSDI – Back into the future


A result of many parallel initiatives

july06-photo-11Dr P Nag
Director, NATMO,
Government of India

The clearance of NSDI by the Government of India is definitely an achievement. However, this development should not be seen in isolation. There have been several activities and processes going on in parallel that contributed considerably to progress in right direction. The efforts regarding modernization of spatial data, map digitization, reforms at Survey of India, National Map Policy and creation of the NSDI should be looked in a holistic way.

When we initiated this process five years before, there were doubts in many data producing agencies about the intention itself. Many took it as an effort to exercise control on them. In due course of time, the initial hesitation at least in government departments is over and now we can look forward to a major role to be played by all the stakeholders. However, we still need to make efforts to convince the non-government data producing groups like industry and NGOs to actively participate in this initiative.

Industry is having a greater role in producing spatial data for the country. Efforts should be made to evolve model for public-private partnerships. Such partnerships should be beneficial to government and industry both.

Needless to say that the digital data henceforth produced by the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) will meet the NSDI data specification.


Definitely a positive step

july06-photo-12Dr Vandana Sharma
Senior Technical Director, National
Informatics Centre

National Informatics Centre (NIC) and NSDI have been complementary and supplementary in the field of GIS although both started on a different note. NIC focused on creation of datasets, value addition to database with GIS component and creating infrastructure for dissemination of these databases. The NSDI mainly deliberated on metadata, standards, data exchange formats, OSM etc from the very beginning.

We at NIC are convinced about the potential and applicability of spatial data for developmental purposes, hence we took GIS as a millennium planning tool that will change the decision making process forever. Traditionally at NIC, we already have a large number of relational datasets of infrastructure and natural resources with details up to village level. These datasets along with GIS technology can yield immediate results for developmental planning and e-governance even at village level.

Today, data is not a prime issue. However, it is important to have an effective delivery system of these data. We also need to develop innovative, imaginative and customized data products keeping users in our mind.

The clearance of NSDI is definitely a positive step. However, now when NSDI is a reality our focus should be to ensure that it delivers too


Need a business model

july06-photo-13K M Jagadeesh
Reliance Digital World Limited

Although the progress initially was slow but it was necessary to be optimistic. In addition, we had a conviction that such a Spatial Data Infrastructure will be vital for extensive use of GIS for the benefit of people.

The role of private sector is to develop a viable business model to reach masses. This has to be supported by resolutions of Government to take up such ventures. Improvements in communication infrastructure and economic growth scenario of the country are favourable for deployment of applications to reach masses.

Planning, engineering, operations & maintenance of large infrastructure projects to harness power of GIS for rapid and effective implementation and productivity enhancement

aimed at business benefits.

A few points that need attention are

1. NSDI should develop a business model along with private sector and not in isolation. The business model to be reviewed annually to make it more friendly to private sector.

2. Private sector should also be involved in development of NSDI and operational utilisation of NSDI.

3. Government organisations should focus on simpifying regulatory / policy issues. (viz., TRAI for Telecom).

4. NSDI to work with NASSCOM to facilitate in GIS integration with mainstream IT.


Private sector has an active role

july06-photo-14Rajesh C Mathur
ESRI india

I must compliment Surveyor General of India and other officers of Government of India who worked relentlessly with missionary zeal in spite of several challenges. Private sector also played a very active and constructive role in conceptualizing NSDI and building a road map. I appreciate the gesture of the Government in involving private sector in the NSDI Task Force and various sub committees – I had the opportunity to chair one of them.

Going forward, the NSDI Committee should define a clear road map for the next 3-5 years with defined milestones, individual responsibilities and goals. Private sector should continue to play an active role and must be involved in building the implementation plan. Some of the specific areas where private sector can contribute to NSDI are:

• Creation of value added products
• Usage of spatial data in implementation of projects for end users
• Creation for data portals and platforms for service delivery
• Providing Web based geospatial services to end users
• Distribution of spatial data in the domestic market
• Development of applications to enable deployment of GIS in various verticals
• Development of product plans based on market requirements – present and future.
• Building marketing and promotional strategy for NSDI products and services
• Pricing and other commercial terms

In addition, NSDI can also contribute in creating standards, formats for data exchange etc. NSDI can also provide the framework for dissemination of the data created by the private sector.

The NSDI journey has just begun for our country. As we progress, we will have to overcome several challenges. Some of these would be:

• Building a road map for the next 5 years for NSDI
• Development of product and services plans
• Reaching a consensus among all participants on the short and medium term goals.
• Pricing and other commercial terms for data and services
• Creating a business model for public – private partnership
• Providing budgetary support to participating agencies for data creation


Interoperability is crucial

july06-photo-15Dr R P Singh
Deputy Registrar General (Map),
Office of Registrar General India

Census department is very much prepared to be a part of NSDI. Besides attribute data, census have a large number of maps up to village level. There are different layers of these data and some of them are already available on Internet. However, one of our concerns have been interoperability. The Survey of India toposheets and census maps have different characteristics as our objective has been to display attribute data. The other issue is of standardization. Everything needs to be standardized like legends, names, etc. When we discuss such issues we should also consider the needs of departments other than Survey of India.

Many departments need map for village level planning and where attribute data play a very important role. I think we need more intensive deliberations to address the concerns of data producing agencies other than Survey of India.

Nevertheless, the clearance of NSDI is a major step forward as in one go it will address many issues pertaining to data accessibility and duplicacy.


We have huge datasets that can be linked to NSDI

july06-photo-16Dr S N Das
Chief Soil Survey Officer, All India Soil and Landuse
Survey, Ministry of Agriculture

All India Soil & Land Use Survey (AISLUS), has a repository of spatial data for watershed prioritasation for macro-level planning on 1:50,000 scale of 200 m ha. In addition, there is detailed database on soil and land
characteristics on 1:4000/8000/ 15000 scale for 13.5 m ha and district wise distribution of degraded lands on 1:50,000 scale of 65 districts.

AISLUS has completed 20 consultancy projects on application of RS and GIS for development of digital soil data and impact evaluation of watershed development and watershed prioritization.

We would have appreciated had Ministry of Agriculture as a member to NSDC and also AISLUS as a part of this NSDI initiative.



According to me there are six important issues that need to be addressed for the success of NSDI today. The first, is the availability and easy accessibility to spatial data – unhindered but regulated, maybe, and requiring sound and adaptive policies for spatial data sharing. We need the foundation of good, reliable and basic GIS databases (Make data available and applications, demand, market will follow through). This leads to the second, good “GIS Process Standards” – a standardisation of the entire process of “spatial technology” – images, mapping, GIS database creation, Spatial outputs, Spatial data Quality Assessment and Spatial Services (If all GIS data available is as per common and agreed standards, applications, demand and market development will be easier). The third is technical interoperability – integration using the Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) and based on Web standards (Spatial data and Application Services will be the order of the day for GIS in the future). The fourth requirement would be spatial modelling and applications which brings new perspectives and visualization of spatial information and new insights to societal and economic processes of society – natural resources management, land planning, engineering and infrastructure, disaster management, education, health services and business (GIS Services will broaden and touch almost all aspects of society and citizens). The fifth important parameter is partnerships and enterprise for GIS – replete with the infrastructure, mission critical capabilities, and robust architectures associated with other enterprises. The “forced” boundary between Spatial Technology and conventional Information Technology will disappear – and horizontals of a new kind would emerge (the more inclusive GIS will be with other technologies/enterprises the more success for GIS). This leads to the last of the important issue – developing the GIS user communities by educating and orienting levels of society to become Spatial-savvy and benefit from the spatial technologies (if every citizen learns and benefits from GIS, it is he who will ultimately drive GIS technology and its future growth).

The databases

Core to all this and the most critical element for the success of NSDI – which I have realized and reiterate is databases – both spatial and otherwise are KEY “engines” for NSDI to be developing and protecting our society and our people and generating commerce. A society that has a good, reliable and detailed database of its resources, assets, people and infrastructure is able to better manage, develop and protect itself and also generate successful business. We need a national effort for the database that provides a first-level snapshot of the world – and this may be “stitched” from many national perspectives; a national database that provides indepth assessment of national disparities and opportunities and through to a city-level or property-level database of land/property assets. Mainly a GIS DATBASE ENTERPRISE – a national GIS System of Systems is what will drive NSDI. My urge would be – India, please get the collective act together and put in all resources and efforts to develop and make available the best and systematic GIS databases – it will be an investment for the present and future generations!!!

Public-private partnership

Another major amalgam for NSDI is Public-Private partnerships – it would be just impossible for a single entity (even government) to fully establish the NSDI on its own. Partnerships will have to be the core mechanism to make NSDI successful. There could be self-defined stake-boundaries – agencies providing data assets; agencies developing applications; agencies providing services; agencies maintaining the systems and so on – but all of them knit on a valuebased “royalty” model that will make a successful enterprise for each. In this individual successful enterprise, NSDI will emerge as the most succsessful enterprise of enterprise.

The dream

Now I dream – that to develop GIS applications and value-add, provide development alternatives, generate GIS business, protect and empower our society and people we would be able to search, locate and seek reliable and accurate map and image data and spatial information from a “merabharat search” and find varying details of Indian map and image data on NSDI servers and (at a “proverbial click”) download them to desktops by making an e-payment. Mera Bharat is certainly Mahaan and I am sure that Mera Bharat’s NSDI will also be Mahaan – SOON!!!

That is what I dreamt in February, 2001… Is somebody pinching me to wake up?


Mukund Rao

Chief Executive Officer Navayuga Spatial
Technologies Pvt Ltd Bangalore
My coordinates
Mark your calendar
May 09 TO DECEMBER 2009

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