India is mapping out its newest national asset, a state-of-the art online information bank, which promises to transform governance, aid planning and make life easier for the man on the street. Called National GIS, this geographical information system powered service would be the first one-stop database of India's natural and physical assets, providing information and services about government schemes and businesses -- right from locating malls, hospitals or ATMs to lodging complaints.
The locational data service, expected to be fully operational in 3 years, would be accorded the status of a national asset and can accessed through desktops or mobiles. National GIS, which is expected to help boost productivity and keep a check on wasteful expenditure, will have a "citizen layer" that will make it possible for individuals to geographically tag complaints and grievances on a real-time basis that will be accessible to users across three levels-—government, businesses and citizens.
It will also link individuals with UID numbers to their geographical location. The project is the brainchild of the Planning Commission, which has set up a 12-member core group to work out the organizational structure, technological base, costs and user interface of the database. In order to make GIS database a national asset, a proper administrative setup is required.
Although GIS services are being provided both by the government and the private sector, they are not standardized or even accurate. It is the first time the government is dealing with the standardization of GIS, which has been available in the US since the 1980s. If assets would be standardized, governance would become easy.
The committee's role is to lay the standards for GIS, such as the accuracy of the road network; stopping PDS pilferage by ensuring vehicles actually deliver to fair price shops; property taxes can be accurately collected since people tend to under-report; consumer indexing of electrical utilities to overlay the user and the power network on the digital map; health and education system rollout, besides others.
In its initial draft, the core group has envisioned a digital map with geo-tagged spatial data--containing 36 broad categories--that can currently be sourced from various government and private databases. The government already has a sizeable resource of multi-resolution satellite images and topographical and thematic maps. There are also GIS initiatives of the Natural Resources Management System, National Spatial Data Infrastructure and National Urban Information Systems.
However, none of these are integrated with each other, making it impossible for one government agency to use information of another while alienating private stakeholders altogether. The GIS map will source data from the Planning Commission, census, infrastructure and sectoral datasets of ministries and states and integrate it in one national frame. For the process of integration, the core group has suggested establishing an Indian National GIS Organisation (INGO) that will be the main agency implementing the programme. The first organisation to benefit from such an exercise will be the Planning Commission, which will get a "Plan GIS" in a year if the proposal is cleared by the government.
Source: Economic Times