On the GIS path to Digital India
Digital India ? GIS ??
The notion of Digital India and GIS are both alien concepts for us. With this thought in mind, I get into my car and set the GPS to take me to a friend’s house in a locality that I had never been to before. As I cruise along following the directions of the’ lady’ who knows all the directions in the world, i.e. the GPS, I realise that GIS has invaded my life. I stop at a traffic signal and look at the GPS screen to find that this locality has a botanical garden, a mall and my favourite pizza joint. I quickly place an online order to pack a few for my friend’s children and pay with m credit card. By the time I reach the joint, I get a call from the joint informing my delivery is ready. I pick it up and reach my friend’s house as my ‘guide’ announces that I have reached my destination.
Digital India Mandate
The objective of Digital India is to prepare India for a knowledge future and transform India into a digital empowered society and knowledge economy. GIS processes the data or information generated into data points which can be seen on a map. This visual representation of the data in the form of dynamic maps offers better understanding and enables comparison, forecasting, estimation, etc with greater accuracy and speed.
The focus areas of Digital India are:
- Creation of a countrywide digital infrastructure as a utility for every citizen
- Ensuring governance and services on demand
- Digital empowerment of citizens
How GIS can help?
The underlying common factor in all these issues is one important criterion – location, and inter-related spatial information pertaining to each location. This is precisely the greatest prowess of GIS, by which features and functions of a complete system comprising up of all forms of geographically referenced information can be integrated and offered on a single platform for the benefit of users and decision—makers. Location-based services and asset mapping shall play a crucial role in all these areas and GIS can be leveraged to provide these dimensions.
Digital India will obviously involve a network of information highways, interspersed with assets and infrastructure – both natural and man-made. Geo-tagging the locations of all these would be an essential requirement to understand the ground reality of development process and services to be made available to citizens. GIS can then be used as a technology platform to facilitate location-specific ‘Governance and Services on demand’, as key implementation strategy for Digital India. GIS will also facilitate planning, decision-support, monitoring and evaluation for good governance, ensure participation of citizens and provide a feedback mechanism also.
GIS – A Citizen-centric Tool
This would ensure that citizens themselves become a part of the nation-building process by virtue of their connection to GIS applications which would entail civic discussions, opinion seeking and expertise sharing. This GIS energy can be channelized to have world-class community living standards and citizens that are more aware, informed, and involved, thereby achieving our goal of ‘Smart Cities’. GIS data is an important player in making cities smarter and better.
One of the major requirements for digital empowerment would necessitate government organizations to use interactive tools that enable a stronger dialog on various facets of public and community life, from details on spending and development projects becoming transparent to servicing of public requests in minimal time. GIS is proving to be one if the most efficient platforms for citizen engagement. Map-based web and mobile applications provide citizens a clearer picture of the situation at a glance and also help in determining how and where they stand in that particular issue. GIS can be effectively implemented to transform e-Governance into g-Governance for reforming government through technology.
Here, a mention must be made of NGIS platform, which is one of the potential services proposed for the GIS community from Meghraj, the Cloud solution initiative by NIC.
Modern day GIS applications are powerful enough to handle complex data analytics and also the new scenario of Big Data analysis. For example, Digital India mission would involve installation of IT systems pan-India and troubleshooting coverage for any kind of problem for all these facilities would involve requirement of a central repository of users and infrastructure. GIS applications could then utilize this data for database connections and reporting, integration to other utility systems, dynamic mapping and viewing, network tracing and finally locating customers and servicing complaints.
The basic foundation for GIS applications is geospatial data and the advent of new technology sources like satellite and airborne digital cameras, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), GPS, and other digital surveying devices, has given us accessibility to huge quantities of geospatial data of all kinds. Some of the key areas that will witness higher usage of GIS include industrial estate planning, urban planning, property enumeration and mapping, underground utility design and mapping (electricity, gas, water, communications), and corridor surveys/terrain modelling for oil & gas pipelines, roads and waterways.
GIS in the Indian Scenario
India is primarily an agro-dependant nation and any kind of digital empowerment would be a failure if not implemented in this domain at a grassroots level, keeping in mind the perception and understanding level of a farmer. Major focus should be given to how farmers can benefit from GIS integration with functional area specific information systems such as production and operations, data warehouse, and marketing. Recent trends include GIS integration with sensor networks, wherein changes occurring in real-time (such as temperature, soil moisture, water flows, micro climates, and other conditions) are precisely measured and this application could benefit the agriculture domain to a great extent.
The mission can turn a full cycle only if people can access these applications easily and find it convenient to use them. Hence mobile and tablet applications that wider reach should be developed. Data capture in the field using mobile devices like smart phones and tablets- has become very easy and hence users are putting GIS mapping in the hands of the field workforce and this definitely increases the involvement at the grassroots level. Another way out could be by having government web portals that make it easy for agencies to make public their applications and data with a far greater reach. These centralized public contributions could then be publicized so that citizen–engagement is the maximum.
Making India digitally empowered requires tremendous planning, research and development, and deployment. One of the best ways to quickly and accurately view and analyze huge volumes of data is by using a GIS solution and this itself underscores the importance of the role of GIS in India going the digital way.