150th Issue Articles

From E-Governance To Geo-Governance – Geo Enabling For Better Governance – Rajesh C Mathur

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E-Governance is the process of using information technology to reform government work, increase transparency and strengthen services for the citizen.

The Digital India initiative by the Government aims at reforming through technology and it provides Electronic Delivery of Services (EDS).

Digital India will transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. Its mission is to transform the entire ecosystem of public services by use of information technology (IT).

Geographic Information System (GIS) forms an important component of the Digital India project and should be leveraged for decision support systems and development. While e-Gov is the current paradigm, the future lies in embedding geographic information in governance and service delivery.

Geospatial technologies are becoming pervasive and are finding applications across multiple domains. These technologies are becoming a catalyst for several transformational changes in the world, primarily in environmental management, urban planning, utilities, security, emergency response, governance and citizen engagement.

Location is an important parameter in virtually every aspect of government functioning and hence GIS would always be a critical component of most of the mission mode projects conceptualised and implemented by the government.

Knowing where things are, and why, is essential for rational decision-making. For instance, when a natural disaster, like floods, strikes a GIS based platform would provide a common operating picture to all the stakeholders including agencies involved in relief operations, NGOs, funding agencies and bureaucrats leading to more informed decision-making.

GIS would power several flagship projects announced by the government like Smart Cities, AMRUT, Digital India, Integrated Watershed Management System, Digital India Land Record Modernisation Program, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Mission for Clean Ganga, Roads and Highways, among others.

GIS would be at the core of most of the technology initiatives that would drive the smart city journey of Indian cities. It will integrate various systems like Command Control Centre, Security, Urban Transportation, and Solid Waste Management around a GIS-based service delivery platform.

GIS has been in use in India for over two decades and forms the core of several critical projects in the government and private sector. These include R-APDRP, National Hydrology Project, NLRMP, National Urban Information System, among others. Now is the opportunity for the nation to consolidate the work already done and build a comprehensive system that will enable e-Gov and bring in a wide range of benefits.

Issues & Challenges:

Some of the issues with the current scenario are:

• Lack of collaboration and sharing of data between user organisations leads to duplication in data creation. This results in not only cost escalation but is also responsible for delay in project implementation

• Lack of standards because of which data cannot be shared between various users

• Absence of a common data model to facilitate scalability and extensibility

• Some of the data available with mapping agencies are in computer-aided design (CAD) form and needs to be re-engineered before it is deployed in GIS projects

• Shortage of skilled GIS manpower which constraints adoption of GIS by the user departments

Roadmap to geo-Governance

Geo-Governance is the use of a Geographical Information System (GIS) in conjunction with traditional e- Governance infrastructure to spatially enable policy makers and administrators to take more informed decisions and deliver services within a geographic framework. By geo-enabling the e-gov projects of the government it will embed geographic dimension into various services being delivered by the government to the citizens.

It will also introduce location as an important parameter in the decision-making process thereby making it more comprehensive and holistic.

Key imperatives for a successful adoption of geospatial technologies in various e-Governance projects would be:

•Availability of Geo-information Products comprising vector maps, satellite imageries, aerial photographs, etc. Some of the data sets available with national mapping agencies may have to be re- engineered to make them GIS ready.

Modern data collection technologies like GPS, aerial photography, LiDAR and drones may be adopted for accurate and faster data capture. The private sector should also play a significant role in the creation of GIS data sets and dissemination of services. Further, development and adoption of standards would be another essential step to facilitate interoperability between various departmental systems.

•Existing business processes in government departments will have to re-engineered to embed geospatial dimension in the information systems.

•Capacity Building: One of the factors restricting widespread adoption of geospatial technologies has been an acute shortage of qualified technical manpower capable of conceptualising, designing, developing and implementing enterprise systems leveraging the full power of contemporary geospatial technology.

A related issue has been a lack of appreciation of geospatial technologies among the user organisations, both — in the government and private sector. A concerted effort is required to enhance awareness of geospatial technologies among potential users. There is also a need to enhance the quality of geospatial education and align it to the needs of user organisations.

A three-pronged strategy is recommended, which will touch:

• Academic Training institutions offering undergraduate and post graduate programmess on geospatial technologies

• Middle-level officers and department heads responsible for implementation of various government projects

• Senior bureaucrats driving national and state level critical projects

A joint initiative of the government and industry will help in addressing the capacity building needs associated with large scale adoption and absorption of geospatial across the government – Central and States.

• Establishment of an Enterprise GIS Platform:

The platform will be a system of systems which will consist of:

• System of Records which will host various geospatial information products including base maps, thematic layers, attribute data, imageries, etc.

• System of Engagement which will facilitate access to the data and distributed geoprocessing.

• System of Insight comprising applications and other tools to enable users to consume the data by way of services and integrate spatial data with non-spatial data created by the user departments.

The Enterprise GIS platform will be a federated system which will provide full autonomy to user departments to create, own, manage and update from their own locations subject to their following the standards and guidelines of the platform. An illustrative enterprise GIS architecture for a smart city is depicted in Fig. 1

•Enabling Policy Framework:

An enabling geospatial policy will facilitate the availability of authoritative, accurate, and standard-based geospatial information products to all the users; ensure that data is kept current and is available, both in human and machine readable form.

The policy will protect the intellectual property rights of data producers while encouraging the creation of value added products thereby enriching it further and extending its usage to a wide segment of users – government, private sector, academia, NGOs, and citizens. It will enrich the entire geospatial ecosystem and result in the development of innovative applications leading to enhanced usage and adoption of geospatial technologies.

The policy should encourage the private sector to participate in data acquisition and production activities in order to meet the users’ need of a variety of data sets for their projects.

Private sector companies must also be encouraged to create value added products/services. The policy should support various modes of data distribution including Cloud, Web and magnetic media.

Conclusion

Geospatial technologies will play a pivotal role in successful implementation of flagship projects of the government like Smart Cities, Digital India, DILRMP, Swacch Bharat, Clean Ganga, among others. It will provide a new paradigm in decision-making by enabling geographical visualisation and representation of information. It will help the bureaucrats in taking more informed decisions leading to:

• Strengthening of governance

• Enhanced transparency

• Improvement in citizen services

An enabling geospatial content policy will act as a catalyst in embedding geographic information into various government processes and building powerful decision support systems – the foundation for achievement of the goals of the Digital India Programme.

By: Rajesh C Mathur, Advisor, Esri India

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