Geospatial Sector in India – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

Geospatial Technology is a term used to describe a range of modern tools like the Geographic Information System (GIS), Remote Sensing (RS) and Global Positioning System (GPS). Geospatial technology enables us to acquire data that is referenced to the earth and use the data for analysis, modeling, simulations and visualization. Geospatial technology has moved from being a niche to mainline technology driving public-private partnerships for large infrastructure programmes. The use of Geospatial technologies can help ensure timely completion of projects through tracking, monitoring and managing performance as per plans. 

It’s been almost a year since the Government of India announced the Geospatial Data Guidelines in 2021 that deregulated the geospatial sector. Through the guidelines the Government provided much needed push for the sector but there remain some bottlenecks that should be duly addressed in order to ensure a more decentralised and democratic adoption. 

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What is Geospatial Technology?

Geospatial technology uses tools like GIS, GPS and Remote Sensing for geographic mapping and analysis. These tools capture spatial information about objects, events and phenomena (indexed to their geographical location on earth, geotag). The location data may be Static or Dynamic. Static location data include position of a road, an earthquake event or malnutrition among children in a particular region while dynamic location include data related to a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease etc.

The technology may be used to create intelligent maps to help identify spatial patterns in large volumes of data. The technology facilitates decision making based on the importance and priority of scarce resources. Geospatial technology has become an indispensable part of everyday life with its use in tracking everything from transportation to personal fitness to changes on the surface of earth.

What is the Current Status of Geospatial Sector in India?

According to India Geospatial Artha Report 2021, the Indian geospatial economy is currently valued at Rs 38,972 crore and employs approximately 4.7 lakh people. The past decade has seen an increase in the use of geo-spatial data in daily life with various apps. These include food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce like Amazon, cab hailing apps like Ola and Uber and many weather apps. However, the sector is still dominated by the Government as well as government-run agencies such as the Survey of India (SOI).

What is the significance of Geospatial Sector?

Economic Growth: The sector has potential to grow to Rs 63,100 crore at 12.8% by the end of 2025 as per India Geospatial Artha Report 2021. 

Employment Generation: Private Companies like Amazon, Zomato etc. use this technology to smoothly conduct their delivery operations which supports livelihood generation. Further the estimated human resource size of the sector is expected to reach 9.5 lakh by 2025.   

National Security: The Government of India started investing heavily in geospatial technologies after the Kargil war. The war highlighted the adverse effects of dependence on geospatial data sourced from foreign countries.

 Implementation of Schemes: The flagship schemes of the Government like the Gati Shakti program can be smoothly implemented using geospatial technology. The scheme involves huge investments in construction of about 25,000 Kms of highways, multimodal transport, and modernization of land records.

Boost to Make in India: Focusing on the sector will allow Indian companies to develop indigenous apps like an Indian version of google maps.

Land Record Management: Using this technology, the data related large number of landholdings can be appropriately tagged and digitized. It will not only help in better targeting but would also reduce the quantum of land disputes in courts. Barring Karnataka, the records are not updated in other states.

Crisis Management: Technology and logistics were perfectly supported through the use of geospatial technology during the Covid 19 vaccination drive.

What steps have been taken by the Government for the sector?

Guidelines for Geospatial Data, 2021: The guidelines were released by the Ministry of Science and Technology in February 2021. The guidelines deregulated existing protocol and liberalized the sector to a more competitive field. The guidelines eliminated the requirement of permissions as well as scrutiny, even for security concerns for Indian Companies.

Companies now can self-attest, conforming to government guidelines without actually having to be monitored by a government agency.

Read More: DST announce liberalization of “Geospatial data and Mapping” Policy

Geospatial Energy Map of India: It has been developed by NITI Aayog in collaboration with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). It aims to provide a comprehensive view of energy production and distribution in the country.

It will be useful in planning and making investment decisions. It will also aid in disaster management using available energy assets.

Union Budget 2022-23: Government would support the use of Kisan drones for land assessment, digitization of land records and spraying insecticides and nutrients.

Read More: How ‘kisan drones’ will help in the development of agriculture sector

Yuktdhara Portal: The Ministry of Rural Development has launched a new geospatial planning portal named  ‘Yuktdhara’.  It will serve as a repository of assets (geotags) created under the various National Rural Development Programmes, such as MGNREGA. It will integrate a wide variety of thematic layers, multi-temporal high-resolution earth observation data with the analysis tool.

What changes have happened after the deregulation?

The experts are projecting the geospatial market to reach around 1 lakh-crore by the year 2029 with 13% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). The geospatial sector is seeing new interest from more investors e.g.,the initial public offering (IPO) of MapmyIndia got over subscribed (154 times) and listed at 53% premium. The other noticeable activity was the launching of a city mapping programme by Genesys International in India.

What are the challenges impairing progress of Geospatial Sector?

Absence of a sizeable geospatial market: There is low demand for geospatial services and products on a scale linked to India’s potential and size. This is mainly due to the lack of awareness among potential users in government and private sector.

Human Resource Deficit: There is dearth of skilled manpower to collect, store and analyze the data across the entire geospatial pyramid. Unlike the West, India lacks a strata of core professionals who understand geospatial technology end-to-end.

Lack of data availability and sharing constraints: The unavailability of foundation data, especially at high-resolution, is also a constraint. Further the lack of clarity on data sharing and collaboration prevents co-creation and asset maximization.

Lack of Tailor made solutions: Barring a few cases, there are still no ready-to-use solutions especially built to solve the problems of India.

What should be done to promote the Geospatial Technology Sector in India?

First and foremost is the need to publish the entire policy document and raise awareness among Government and private users. The data available with government departments should be unlocked, and data sharing should be encouraged and facilitated.

Second, there is a need to establish a geo-portal to make all public-funded data accessible through data as a service model. It is important to inculcate the culture of data sharing, collaboration and co-creation. Further there is a need to develop a geospatial data cloud locally and facilitate a solution as service.

Third, there is a need to generate foundation data across India. This should include the Indian national digital elevation model (InDEM), data layers for cities, and data of natural resources.

Fourth, India should start a bachelor’s programme in geospatial in the Indian Institutes of Technology and the National Institutes of Technology. Besides these, there should be a dedicated geospatial university. These programmes will propel research and development efforts which are crucial for the development of technologies and solutions locally.

Fifth, Digital India should prioritize the creation of 3D national digital twins of our environments (water, road, rail, cities & rural) to track and monitor ailing structures and utilities.

Sixth, National organizations like SoI and ISRO should be entrusted with the responsibility of regulation and the projects related to the nation’s security and scientific significance. These organizations should not compete with entrepreneurs for government business as the latter remains in a disadvantageous position.

Seventh, the draft National Geospatial Policy (NGP) and the Indian Satellite Navigation Policy (SATNAV Policy) should be duly finalized to augment the sector.

Conclusion:

Geospatial will be a crucial technology that will drive growth ambitions of the country – providing employment and also aiding the new-age ecosystem by providing location intelligence at your fingertips. More and more sectors such as agriculture, environment protection, power, water, transportation, health etc. desire the technology in order to truly realize their potential.

Source: The Hindu

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