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NSDI – Moving from ‘data’ to ‘application’ domain with continuously evolving Geo-ICT
says PS Acharya, CEO, National Spatial Data Infrastructure(NSDI), Department of Science & Technology, Government of India shares the status, activities and future plans of NSDI in India in an interview with Coordinates magazine
What is the status of NSDI?
Over the years, NSDI has been successful in providing a nation-wide coordinating framework for sharing of standards-based geospatial data services at the Central and State/ Union Territory (UT) Government levels. A group of 12 Central and 18 State/ UT Government Agencies have been enrolled in the process of developing and maintaining geo-portals, framing data sharing and accessibility policies; and adopting national geospatial data and service standards in the provision of interoperable map/ data services. NSDI is currently poised towards provision of registry/ catalogue services and application services.
What are its main activities?
Main activities include framing supportive policies, maintenance of Standards-based Data service Nodes; operationalising registry/ catalogue services; setting up a data processing platform for provision of integrated geospatial information; coordinated preparation and maintenance of high resolution foundation data; formulation of national standards; pursuing related Research & Development for sustaining NSDI and providing stateof- art analytics; building interface with activities of international bodies like Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), International Standardisation Organisation (ISO), and United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN GGIM); and building capacity of providers and consumers.
One of the focuses of the NSDI is to establish National Data Registry (NDR). What is purpose of the NDR?
NDR seeks to provide a standardsbased on-line catalogue for registration, search and discovery of geospatial data provided by various Data Providing Agencies/ Line Departments at Central/ State/ UT Government Levels, Academic Institutions; Private Enterprises; and NGOs/CSOs. With standards-based map/ feature/ attribute data services getting increasingly accessible from Data Nodes/ Geo-portals of various Agencies, there is a need for identifying and keeping track of these services with the help of a catalogue so that those could be optimally utilized in developing GIS applications/ solutions. Procedures for registration of geospatial data using ISO19135 has been adopted.
Does NDR need any legislative backing also?
Registering, publishing, and sharing geospatial data sets through the NDR is proposed to be made mandatory that is expected to prevent duplication of data acquisition thereby minimizing the cost of the data infrastructure and promote multi-domain data integration. All the communities of stakeholders including providers and consumers are expected to benefit. Stakeholders may need to comply with a set of directives on registration, standardization; and publication of geospatial data unto the NDR with the backing of a suitable legislation in order for the NDR mechanism to work effectively.
What is the progress on data standardisation? We understand Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is also playing a role? What is their role?
Substantial progress has been made in institutionalizing standards-making in the domain of geospatial data and processes, framing and adopting geospatial data and process standards in implementing NSDI and State Spatial Data Infrastructures (SSDIs) towards achieving interoperability. Geospatial metadata and data content standards have been framed by NSDI and are being adopted by BIS as national standards. A series of international standards from the OGC and the ISO have been tested on Indian data sets/ services and co-branded as national standards by the BIS for standards-based open sharing of and access to geospatial data
One of the objectives of the NSDI in India was to provide a single window access to all users of spatial data using state of the art technologies? How close we are to this objective?
NSDI has been quite close to this objective. Organizational Data Nodes of various Partnering Agencies from Central/ State Governments have been operational and increasingly making data sets sharable/ accessible as standardsbased map or feature data services. Under the NDR activities, feature data services of a set of 6 Agencies over the past months have been made accessible with geospatial and registry-related metadata sets through a single-window access mechanism for developing processing/ querying services.
In the coming phase, all the data sets for the entire country and all the States/ UTs are proposed to be registered in the NDR for addressing user queries and providing application/ solution services.
What is the progress on State SDIs?
State SDI Data Nodes have been set up or are in the process of getting established in 15 States and 3 Union Territories (including the National Capital Territory of Delhi). Standards-based map/ feature data services and applications have been made accessible from the Data Nodes and are being used by State/ UT Level Line Departments. Some States/ UTs like Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and J&K have shared map/ feature data services with concerned Line Departments for managing the COVID-19 outbreak and deploying related application services. States/ UTs uncovered so far have been requested to set up Data Nodes and register the data services in the NDR to facilitate their utilisation.
Are you using cloud platform?
Yes, a proof-of-concept Geospatial Cloud-based platform has been implemented at SOI, Hyderabad. The platform is being tested for life cycle management of high resolution geospatial data sets, quicker on-boarding of geospatial data/ application/ solution services; and developing benchmarks for designing operational scale geospatial platforms for the provision of web-based application services.
Any focus on R&D?
Continuously evolving Geo-information & Communication Technologies (Geo-ICT) have been a critical component of NSDI and thus R&D activities receive due attention. Some of the priority areas being pursued under NSDI include Indoor Positioning, Modelling & Navigation; Spatiotemporal Data Analytics; Interoperability and Integration of Information; Cloud Computing; Ontologies; Deep/ Machine Learning & AI; Block Chain and Distributed Ledger Technologies; New Data Sources and Collection Technologies; Autonomous Spatial Data Platforms etc.
What about capacity building?
Demonstration, sensitization and training have been the key components of NSDI and State SDIs. Capacity building through such activities not only helps in building the infrastructure but also in utilizing the web-based data services from the data nodes in GIS packages and utilities. About 9 such end user demonstration workshops/ training courses have been conducted over the past year in different parts of the country. An additional 10 events are proposed for the current year
Can you list the achievements of the NSDI?
A major achievement of NSDI has been the establishment and sustenance of the NSDI mechanism for coordinated management of geo-data nationwide. Stakeholders have been enrolled and enabled over the years leading to availability of teams of trained staff/ experts on use of geo-data standards for interoperability and geospatial contract management in National/ State Agencies. NSDI and State SDI Data Nodes/ Portals have been operationalised for improving accessibility to standards-based data and metadata services by the end users. Geo-Information standards-making has been institutionalized through the LITD-22 Sectional Committee of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Data Sharing & Accessibility Policies have been framed and adopted at the National and State Levels for providing the requisite governance framework for data management by stakeholder agencies. The National Data Portal (https://data. gov.in) of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been a direct outcome of the National Data Sharing & Accessibility Policy (NDSAP). As mentioned above, NDR and a proof-of-concept Geospatial Cloud Platform-based Data Centre have been established recently for operational access. Development of training material on SDIs and provision of technical support to building SDI Data Nodes have been made possible with a core group of experts and skills now available in the country.
What are the key challenges?
Absence of a more effective institutional framework for standards-based data registration and sharing, non-availability of efficient data life-cycle management mechanism and processes in various Data Providing Agencies and Line Departments; non-availability of consistent, seamless, authoritative high resolution foundation data; inadequate human resource and capacity in various Agencies and the Industry to develop, maintain, and utilise standards-based data nodes are some of the key challenges faced by NSDI.
What is your road map for the NSDI?
Efforts are being made to overcome the above challenges in the short and medium terms towards providing a state-of-theart Geospatial Information Application Infrastructure for governance and decision-making. This will be achieved, amongst others, by upgrading the NDR and establishing a right-sized platform for geospatial data processing for providing product/ application/ solution services on-line with the involvement of Industry, Academia and the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for re-growth of the economy in post COVID-19 scenario. Satndard specifications from OGC/ ISO/ BIS and guidelines/ best practice documents from UNGGIM are expected to help the country build a world-class and state-of-art Application Infrastructure for supporting the development of the New India by 2022-23 by making the evidencebased policy-making integral to the governance structure of the country