Friday, March 11, 2011

Does The Indian Govt Prefer Google Over Bhuvan?

From a note in Geospatial World I learn that the Election Commission (EC) of India might be using Google satellite images as a background layer on which to placemark the locations of polling booths along with relevant information. The project will be initiated in the state of Bengal.

If this report of using Google is true, I am curious to know why the EC chose Google over Bhuvan which also serves out satellite images and is advertised by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to be customizable to incorporate the kind of functionality the EC wants.

Is it because - a) the EC was not aware of Bhuvan and its capabilities? In that case, ISRO has not done a good job of educating potential users about Bhuvan.

Or is it because - b) the Application Programming Interface i.e. the programming tools that allow developers to customize the application is not good enough?

Or is it because - c) Data policy restricts even government departments from accessing very high resolution imagery (1 meter) from Indian satellites for web applications, even internal ones like the proposed polling booth app. Government users may obtain without clearances high res images of a pre-defined extent i.e. images of one particular geographic area, but is a high res seamless image stream available to them through  Bhuvan?

Currently the data policy allows only imagery of resolution 5.8 meters and coarser to be released free of clearances in the public domain. Due to this policy Bhuvan can only stream images of 5.8 meters and coarser to the general public. The policy is supposed to be up for a review this year.

Whatever the reasons, it's a shame that Bhuvan and high resolution imagery captured by Indian satellites is being kept away from being utilized in innovative applications.

The government and ISRO need to introspect.

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