NSDI – then, now and whenever
RECENTLY, in July, 2007, I attended yet another NSDI Workshop – I think the 6th one at that since 2001 when the NSDI was “crafted” in India. This time, in the serene and rainy environs of Goa. Amidst the lush green and beautiful orchard-like estate of the hotel held, was a gathering of a few dedicated and committed NSDIites that I have seen for the past many years – holding on and hoping that the day will come when the NSDI will be operational. The passion for nsdi which was evident clearly and obviously.
Through this presentation, I shared what I know of what happened in the past – so that lessons can be learnt. I decided to provide a plain assessment from my technical point of view. I decided that I will once again identify and prescribe what needs to be done even now.
It was great euphoria for almost 300- 400 Indians (and quite a few meshing international experts) SDI professionals when the ”NSDI: Strategy and Action Plan” was adopted in the impressive 1st NSDI workshop in Delhi in Feb, 2001. Fortunately, the great personality of Indian Space – Dr K Kasturirangan and yet another great person – Dr V S Ramamurthy jointly spear-headed this NSDI concept at that time. Mr Amitabha Pande, yet another driving force for NSDI, made all efforts to shape this NSDI concept.
What was NSDI then? As I know of then, it was the same as NSDI is even today. NSDI was of “working together of spatial data agencies”, of the will of “sharing spatial data”, of “using spatial data for national good”, of “integrating images and maps for GIS solutions”, of “an Indian SDI leadership”, of “best of technology for NSDI”, of “rigorous and common standards for spatial data”, of “good spatial data policies”, of “partnerships and GIS enterprises” and of “collective good of all agencies”. Those were the principles on which Dr Rangan, Dr Ramamurthy, Mr Pande and many others from SOI, ISRO, NIC, FSI, GSI, NBSSLUP, NATMO and many other private and academic institutions founded NSDI.
There was no upmanship, no competition, no ownership-confl icts, no departmental differences at that time. NSDI was to have brought about a seamlessness in the spatial fabric of India.
Things moved from 2001 onwards – speedily at the beginning and slowed down later. We soon moved on to Ooty for the 2nd NSDI Conference. Ooty Conference, in July, 2002, was a watershed of a sort for NSDI. Expectations were high and the “iron was hot” (as they say). Six key Secretaries of Government of India (GOI) and about 180 Indian NSDI stakeholders and a fantastic action plan brought a forward-looking Ooty communiqué – which brought the NSDI dream a bit closer to reality. Then started the trudge ahead – Agra in November, 2003 where the NSDI Metadata and Exchange Standards were unveiled; Lucknow in November, 2004 – where the NSDI thrust was renewed; Hyderabad in November, 2005 – where NSDI was called for re-juvenation again and Goa in July, 2007 – where NSDI was almost being seen “as gone down history”.
What should have happened?
In 2001 when NSDI was envisioned, it was planned that in 5-years a major achievement would be made to thrust Indian spatial technology. It was envisaged that NSDI would be approved in 2002; NSDI Metadata/Exchange/Agency- Server/Network/Applications standards published by 2002; NSDI and Map Policy re-defi ned in 2002/03; NSDI Portal established in 2003/04; NSDI Data and Application services operational in 2004/05 and by 2006/07 India would move to position many ENTERPRISEGIS and enable a vibrant and worldleading SPATIAL-BUSINESS sector of images, maps, services and solutions and fi nally products. We had hoped that India, by 2007/08, would have a major share of the world-GIS market which is estimated at more than US$2Billion or more.