There has been a significant rise in the use of geospatial technology in the government and the private sector in past decade or so. However, what we see still is just a tip of an iceberg. Geospatial must get embedded into the business processes and workflows of the organisations û both government and private sector. It should be a part of the decision support systems driving the business and an integral part of the IT strategy of every CIO, writes Agendra Kumar.
Geospatial technology, which has been essentially a back office technology, is now moving to the forefront thereby offering unique experiences and application environment for the users. Some of the profound changes that we are witnessing are:
The technology evolution and emergence of new business models and applications definitely outline potential scenarios how businesses can utilise geospatial technology in the areas highly strategic and critical to the functioning of the organisations. This is a huge whitespace and will create business opportunities for companies to conceptualise and implement innovative GIS solutions for business applications.
GIS in infrastructure
India is likely to invest $1trillion on infrastructure in the 12th Five Year Plan. GIS will be one of the enabling technologies for infrastructure projects. Several state and central government departments have successfully deployed GIS across domains like water resource management, urban planning, municipal administration, etc. GIS plays a major role in helping the infrastructure companies plan and manage the projects more efficiently and effectively. Modern infrastructure projects are very complex, span over multiple years and require very careful plann¡ing and execution. Very often, this means access to large amounts of data in real time and very effective information management. It is proven that close to 40 per cent of engineering time in major engineering projects are spent on locating and validating information. It is also proven that poor communication between systems wastes up to 30 per cent of the project costs.
Effective data and communication management is, thus very important for not only saving on the direct costs of the projects, but also in ensuring statutory compliances (e.g., environmental), timely completion and avoiding associated penalties and levies. The engineering information systems benefit a lot by using GIS, and today, many major global projects leverage GIS over the whole lifecycleùplanning, survey, construction, operations and maintenance. The studies also show that the ROI in terms of savings on project costs can be up to 7 to 10 per cent, which is substantial, considering the scale and the total investments involved. In India, the use of GIS for turnkey infrastructure projects is gathering momentum and we are already witnessing most of the mega projects such as PMGSY, highway development, R-APDRP, and JNNURM are already using GIS extensively.
GIS adoption in India
According to IDC, the IT spending in India is expected to reach $44.8 billion in 2014 expanding by $10 billion between 2012 and 2014. The infusion of new technologies such as the cloud and enterprise mobility, new devices such as tablets and innovative service offer¡ings from the industry are also triggering spend on IT programmes, both in the enterprise and consumer mar¡kets. This is further supplemented by increasing inter¡net and mobile broadband quality and penetration in India.
Internet and evolution of cloud have brought about a paradigm shift in the way GIS is deployed. Cloud platforms like AGOL facilitate presenting Geography as a platform comprising content, applications, APIs and services on the Web thereby making GIS pervasive. Any¡one with an Internet connection can access and con¡sume these resources making it a truly societal GIS. With Government of India planning to connect close to 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats through a broadband net¡work, it would become a critical part of the public information infrastructure contributing to inclusive growth.
AGOL platform will play a key role in further supporting GIS adoption in India. It will facilitate sharing of data and services across various departments and offices of the ministries. It will also facilitate collaboration between ministries and sharing of content and services. It would be an ideal platform for initiatives like national and state GIS. AGOL is also an excellent platform for private sector organisations who can embed geospatial technology into their business processes without huge investments in infrastructure. They can use it for business analytics, logistics, and location analytics among others. The rich content and services available on AGOL will further enhance the user experience and enable them to integrate geospatial content and services with their other IT systems.
Within the government, a lot of work has been done by National Informatics Centre (NIC) while the adoption of GIS in the government departments is taking place in parts. States like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh among others have actively been involved in the adoption of GIS for irrigation department, land records department, remote sensing, etc. On the national level, India is now putting in place a new generation of open data policies. This means we can separate GIS systems all over the country at the state, national and local level and yet have the information which is integrated or unified dynamically by using Web services and standards.
This would also help overcome the biggest constraint to growth in usage of GIS, which is access to high quality map data. We need involvement of both the government and private sector organisations engaged in data creation to make it available to all those who can benefit from it. Contemporary geospatial technology makes it feasible to create platform on the Cloud for dissemination of data and services. However, there is a need for a clear policy framework to facilitate it which is already in progress.
Also, the awareness of geospatial among the poten¡tial users needs to be lot higher. Though, because of smart phones and also hand-held navigation devices, people are more aware of digital maps and their value. However, they need more exposure to business appli¡cations of this technology. We should invest more in building human resource capacity which is one of the bottlenecks in the growth of usage.
Exploring the potential
India presents a substantial opportunity for GIS use across industries. GIS is becoming pervasive and is finding applications across a wide range of applications. GIS has become an enabling technology for several mission critical projects like R-APDRP and NLRMP among others. Large corporate houses are already using GIS extensively. Space location analytics, which provides the location dimension to business intelligence, is emerging as an important component of the corporate decision support systems (DSS) which will open up the use of GIS in many new industries and applications.
GIS is being looked at as a means to bring in more efficiency into their business processes and using it as a decision support system. There is strong momentum towards enterprise-wide GIS implementations. In addi¡tion, Internet and Cloud have brought about a paradigm shift in the way GIS is deployed, lowering the barriers to adoption and making it available to everyone.