SDI: Lots of talk and little involvement
I just wanted to congratulate you (and lead article author Mukund Rao) on the excellent wrap-up and exposition of India’s NSDI, NMP, status of OSM etc. in the July issue of Coordinates (http:// www.mycoordinates.org/cgi-bin// click.cgi?id=69). Very well done, especially the publication of both congratulatory and dissenting statements concerning NMP and the new Guide, from a wide range of stakeholders. Reviewing the statements and articles, as an outsider who has some familiarity with prior history of NSDI development in India, it would appear that the NMP is just the first step – and may still need lots of ‘fixing’ before it satisfies a much wider portion of the GI stakeholder community in India. This should surprise no one, given the scope of the policy and its potential impact on Indian society and economy.
I noted especially in the “Policy” section (pp. 25-27) the complaint that the NMP appears to be driven almost exclusively by SOI to the possible exclusion of many other organisations, both public and private, who generate vast amounts of important geospatial information in India. We faced (and still face today?) a similar problem in the UK, where many feel that Ordnance Survey GB has too great a say in most issues relating to the
In the UK, a truly national SDI still does not exist, although several of the autonomous regions in the UK have their own SDI strategies, typically implemented in regional legislation, i.e. in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As to how much longer India still has to go down this road to creating a fully inclusive SDI for the nation, you need only look to the UK and USA for examples. We held the first major stakeholder meeting on a possible NSDI for the UK in June 1995 in London, hosted by Ordnance Survey GB. Now, in 2006, the recently formed “GI Panel” (http://www.gipanel.org. uk/gipanel/) issued a contract for a consultancy to develop a “GI Strategy for the UK” (http://www.gipanel.org. uk/gipanel/gistrategy/index.html). This is 11 years following on from acknowledging the perceived need to create a national SDI in the UK, and 3 full years after one of the UK regions (Wales) announed and began implementation of its own regional SDI strategy (see “GI Strategy Action Plan for Wales” – http://www.agi.org.uk/ SITE/UPLOAD/DOCUMENT/Reports/ GIS_strategy_for_wales_english.pdf).
Many people feel that the global drive towards creating national SDIs was highlighted in 1994 due to the Clinton Executive Order 12906 to create the USA NSDI, even though some nations, such as Canada and Australia were already on the road to creating SDIs in 1992 or even earlier.
Yet as recently as 2004, ten years following this act, we find the Federal Geographic Data Committee publishing the report
“NSDI Future Directions Initiative: Towards a National Geospatial Strategy and Implementation Plan” (FGDC, June 15, 2004 – http://www.fgdc.gov/ policyandplanning/future-directions/ reports/FD_Final_Report.pdf).
This interesting document sets such goals as achieving a greater degree of partnership with *all* geospatial data stakeholders, including private industry, states and tribes, “by 2006” (not yet achieved); making the “framework data real” by 2007 (a target also likely to be missed due to delays in success of The National Map project); and communicating the importance of NSDI as “the primary mechanism for assuring access to reliable geospatial data” to “government, business and academia” by 2007. These seem to me to be pretty basic principles underpinning the whole rationale for an SDI, yet even the USA is still striving to achieve them more than a decade after officially recognising the importance of NSDI, via government order.
It appears that creation of SDIs is *always* accompanied by lots of talk (some useful and some merely delaying tactics), re-inventing of the wheel, lots of posturing (political and otherwise), in-fighting for ‘control’ of the initiative/programme, etc. – and far too little involvement of the wider GI stakeholder community, regardless of whether the SDI is being created in the developing or developed worlds.