NSDI – then, now and whenever
Within the above founding principles, I feel that the following 7-point Action- Plan for NSDI will be very relevant:
ONE: Immediately call for the Meeting of the NSDC. The NSDC has been approved from May, 2006 as the NSDI “think-tank” and of all luminaries in the government and supported by private and academic sector. The NSDC is the think-tank that must direct and guide NSDI. The NSDC should consider the Strategy and Action Plan of NSDI, the status of things that have been achieved so far and then set specifi ed actions that must be taken for NSDI.
In this context, positioning a CEO is also of utmost urgency. The CEO has to be a person of leadership, drive, vision, acceptance and technological strength. Finding such a CEO is not diffi cult – give him the charge and also the fl exibility and authority that can bring results.
TWO: Establish the NSDI Portal at the earliest – based on already-defi ned NSDI Metadata and Exchange standards and also the data holdings of various agencies that are available till now. The NSDI portal should be able to have tools that allow search map and image data of the country; allow image and map data access (as per rules); allow NSDI users to publish their image/map data (as per procedures) and even allow customized applications to be undertaken for obtaining fi nal solutions (and not data) by users. This, I feel, is possible as most agencies have already encapsulated their data holding and organizing the Metadata Server, Data Server should not be at all diffi cult. In fact, such a portal has already been show-cased in July, 2002 and later show-cased in NSDI Workshops also. Why not make it open and accessible, now?
THREE: Immediately organize and make available a digital National GIS Foundation Dataset – a set of standardized layers that all users can use to start any of their their GIS applications. Why can India not have a standard national/state/district/village boundary layer on standards that are compatible for various scales of 1:50K, 1:10K and 1:2K? Why cannot there be a standard dataset of roads and other general features on standards that all can use?
I think, NSDI should work for a NATIONAL FOUNDATION GIS dataset (contents can be defi ned carefully) that is an amalgamation of SOI maps, IRS images and available information in the country – and this should be available for the development of the country to any user un-hindered.
FOUR: Standardization is the key to NSDI. The more one standardises – the image formats, the map formats, the map legends, the map planimetry and GIS design, the better for any NSDI. Actually, I feel, that standardisation is the key to NSDI and the standrdisation must be a mission-mode in NSDI.
In another perspective, India has done well in standardization – we have a common NSDI Metadata Standard – allowing a common Metadata format; we have a NSDI Exchange Standard – allowing and Indian format for exchange of spatial data; we have NNRMS Standard – allowing defi nition of image, thematic maps and GIS design formats. We have done well in this regard.
FIVE: Cadastral data is the backbone of administration of land and development in the country. We need a movement in NSDI for a National ECadasrtre – that allows the encapsulation of cadastral maps into the NSDI.
I personally envision that unless land management and individual benefi ciary level data can be touched, a large market of applications of benefi t to farmers, real-estate, urban management and infrastructure, citizens etc will be less-served.
A National E-Cadastre will open up many of the uses of NSDI and images and maps of the country to citizens, farmers, agriculture, land management, development etc and these would be maximised.
SIX: Policies are the crux of NSDI and the use of images and maps in the country. India, today has independent Image and Map policies – and that too that need revision in the context of NSDI and what is happening in the world. These individual policies need to be re-looked holistically to make a meaningful spatial data policy for the nation – be it images, topographical maps, thematic maps or survey data.
We have separate Map Policy and RS Data Policy in position now – but if we look at these there are “contradictions and also gaps” in what technology offers now. For example, while today satellite images provide DEM of levels of 4-5m z-accuracy – leading to ~10m contour easily, how does that cope in the Map Policy? Further, what is the context of “value-addition” to topographic maps – if roads are extracted from satellite images where topographical maps are used as a reference, is it valueaddition to satellite image or to topographic maps? Now, citizens can easily access high-resolution and similar images on the net and can undertake mapping work – what happens to the provisions of RS Data Policy and what happens to such maps in the Map Policy. Like these, there are many such issues that are to be clearly defi ned and an integrated National Spatial Data Policy – encompassing images, maps and all spatial data is urgently required.
What is needed is a clear-cut DOs and DONTs for spatial data in the country – related to acquiring/generating spatial data from surveys/procurement; images and their use; value-addition to spatial data and sharing of spatial data at all scales and resolution etc.
SEVEN: As a forward-visioning exercise, NSDI must fuel an Enterprise- GIS movement in India – supporting various government, private and citizen enterprise requirements. For example, NSDI must be the core for a Farmer’s Information System as an enterprise solution for Farming community; for a routing and navigation System as a Citizen Enterprise solution; Fleet Management Enterprise GIS that manages fl eets of tranport and logistics movements; Emergency Enterprise GIS that allows tackling emergencies and disasters; Land Information System for a Land Enterprise GIS; for a Municipal Enterprise GIS that allows taxation, property assessment and many other activities and so on.
NSDI Whenever …
Even now, NSDI is not late and can be positioned if the above series of urgent steps to take forward the steps already taken are made. But what is important is that we must do it fast and quick and right – making the nation proud and successful on using spatial data – be it satellite images, maps and solutions.
Let us also face it – NSDI can just not be implemented by government alone (and it is not right too when a lot of enterprise/development activities is also done outside government domain). Private enterprise will have to play a vital and complementary role – be it in solutions, be it in joint-venture initiatives with data-owners or in working the way ahead to deliver. Academic will also have to provide advanced research of powerful spatial search engines, spatial data mining tools, modeling tools and many other research inputs.
I also perceive that time has now come for India to act fast, quick and lead the way for NSDI. Else India may well JUST FOLLOW other global-enterprise initiatives (from outside India) that will anyway go-ahead and position earthwide image/map/solution Portals. We have seen how Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other free-domain initiatives, alongwith commercial Portals, are providing images and maps (and solutions) on a global scale (even of India) and on massive Portals – good for them and good for spatial data business.
Will our future generation view and know India only as these outside “initiatives” will portray? If we do not act now, we will be leaving a legacy for our future generation – who will feed on “outside view and offering” and will seldom believe that India also had the capability to establish map and image portals as part of a national infrastructure. It does hurt my conscience, many times. In that sense, I think the last of the chance for India for positioning a good leadership NSDI is just facing us. Make it happen now… or else there will be a good Indian spatial database (images are already there; maps also will be there soon; solutions will also follow soon later) from outside soon. ”Chak De, India, NSDI chak-de!!!”