Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mapping India: Another National GIS Effort Launched

From a trickle to a flood; the number of government backed initiatives to develop map based applications intended to reach and involve citizens to help manage India's natural and urban resources have increased over the last decade.

The latest as reported by the Economic Times is the National GIS, what appears to be a massive effort to standardize available spatial data and build resource management applications, served out over the web to different users.

I don't have enough details to comment on the particulars, but some thoughts -

The effort is touted as something of a brand new venture, although I suspect that existing applications and ongoing efforts will be grafted onto this new entity. For example, Bhoosampada (new link) allows users to browse and search for landuse and landcover data. And the National Urban GIS Mapping Mission which has promised to build standardized urban data sets is supposed to be underway to map urban areas and develop applications to aid urban governance.

My hope is that the new National GIS is not a massive duplication of efforts and that these older intiatives with some improvements will be brought within a wider umbrella effort.

There is going to a citizen layer in this application which will allow citizens to geo-tag their complaints. The principle is admirable but better governance is more hostage to a mindset than it is to technology. Today, I can either email or call or put up a status on the Pune Municipal Corporation or Pune Traffic Facebook page about a particular grievience, but the response rate is abysmal. Unless a method of personal accountability is tied up with the complaint workflow, I don't see how the citizen layer will lead to a better government -citizen partnership.

Still, it is something of a wonder that more and more government data locked up previously is making its way into the public domain. ...slowly..but that counts for progress nevertheless.


  1. Similar things have occurred here in Canada, but failed in the "served out into the web to different users" part, at least not without having to pull the teeth out of whomever is in charge of data policy.

  2. Malcolm - yes I had heard on different GIS forums that Canada data policy is not that open.. glad India is not the only one :)