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[PODCAST]: India Geospatial Market Trends

With the emerging urban sector in India, there has been a huge demand for geospatial technologies that can support various types of urban development projects. In today’s episode, we are talking to Atanu Sinha who is country director at Hexagon Geospatial India about these developing geospatial opportunities and market trends in India.

Welcome to HxGN radio, this is your host Veronica Miller. As our cities grow, we must develop technology that supports modern urban development. Now more than ever it’s crucial to understand the role geospatial technologies play in the development of smart cities, especially in developing nations. With the emerging urban sector in India, there has been a huge demand for geospatial technologies that can support various types of urban development projects. In today’s episode we are talking to Atanu Sinha who is country director at Hexagon Geospatial India about these developing geospatial opportunities and market trends in India. Thank you for joining us today.

AS: Thank you for inviting me.

VM: Let’s discuss the geospatial technologies and their scope in the various programs you have in India.

AS: India is a growth market, we all know that. And the introduction says it quite clearly that one of the most potential market which is fertile to look for newer things to happen in the geospatial area. So we have government-backed programs which are like smart city programs, 100 smart cities programs , Digital India, and we have urban renewal mission which are critical in terms of how we are looking at the overall development of India as a power, which supports the infrastructure with economic growth. While we do all this, one of the critical technologies that has come to the forefront of various projects is the geospatial technology. What happens is the geospatial technology gives a complete, common operational picture to the various silos of information that you have. When I say silos of information, I say that you may have some kind of road project that has got construction linked payment plans. You have some design aspect over it. You have some monitoring things that are going on. What GIS does, or geospatial technology, is bringing those silos of information into one operation common picture which gives you right from planning to operations and construction so I think for any successful project to be executed, monitored, geospatial technology is key. And India has embraced this technology quite well. In fact, all their programs now say geospatial technology as part of their implementation.

VM: Absolutely. And how do these projects help in the development of the urban sector of India?

AS: As I said 100 smart cities project, what we have done is that now we have selected about 20 smart cities in India as a first phase of implementation. In those we have selected a pilot area and we are going ahead and doing the implementation. While smart cities is just a big large framework, it allows you to develop every aspect of city. Whether it is utilities, including the power distribution, sewer, things like that to road infrastructure, road network, to housing, housing plans, development of housing to commercial establishments. Including mass rapid transport systems. Which is like your complete bus networks, metro networks and things like that. It allows you for an overall development and spread out the city. Which is not going to congest one particular locality of the city but it allows you to have a complete planning for a plan which is like 30 years down the line with the influx of so many rural population into urban development. Because the pressure today is on the urban side, because a lot of people are moving from the rural side to urban because that’s where the job opportunities are, that’s where the demands are. And I think all this allows you and be there to take the load off next 20-30 years. And geospatial technologies it just not gives you what it was, but what it will be. It allows you to plan for next 20-30 years. And I think that’s the key structure we are looking at. In all these projects so that you plan not for today, but for the future. From a standpoint what we are looking at in geospatial technology, we see a definite growth coming out. That growth is definitely in double digit numbers. We have spoken about what geospatial technology does, but does the government kind of support this technology? Yes. The whole framework of government of India says that space technology should be part of every project, especially the smart cities projects. We have a framework that says that space technology becomes part of every implementation right from the municipal authorities, development authorities to country-planning organizations.

VM: And so as you mentioned there’s some government supported policies, government supported initiatives, such as promoting more space technology being used in these projects. Can you tell us a little bit more about additional government supported initiatives?

AS: Yes. In terms of what has happened is that as part of the geospatial technology coming in forefront. Government is coming out with geospatial policy framework, including geospatial bill, which is critical for the success of every project. Because today what we have is discrete bills or discrete policies for something for satellite imagery, something for maps, something for UAVs, things like that. So they’re trying to create a complete unified framework which will give kind of a single-window approach for every geospatial technology to be implemented, including what should be the format so that there is no problem within technologies to go ahead and ingest data from different platforms, which makes it a more inter exchangeable format.

While all these are being done, the government is also very clear that we need to be enacted through the bill for implementation. And that’s the positive step we are looking from the government standpoint. With saying that, what happens is we have two critical organizations called Department of Space and Department of Defense. These are critical for any space technologies to be implemented. Department of Defense look at the external boundaries of the country. Department of Space will look at the internal know-how’s of the whole earth that we have. What it is today and what it will be, and the other changes that have happened over the time, Department of Space is monitoring that through its own imaging program and they are giving access to that data through their portal called Bhuvan to the general public. So it’s coming down to a level where we as citizen centric services are also being enabled.

VM: And how are you extending, you had mentioned before with the move from rural areas into cities, how are you extending your reach into the rural areas that need that geospatial technology?

AS: One of the key programs under government of India is “Digital India.” So the idea of Digital India is to connect every rural area, every village in India to the main infrastructures. Which means that one of the programs under Digital India is the land records modernization project, which that means every single plot, every piece of land will get plotted, digitized into a central database which is critical for every single person who owns that land where agricultural development is happening. If there’s a development that needs to be done in that part of the rural area. So the various programs within rural India supports rural base to come to the forefront and embrace this technology development. That’s how we are looking at India- to penetrate into the rural market.

VM: Do you have any examples of this initiative?

AS: The key rural area is completely dependent on the agriculture income. When we say agriculture income, there needs to be program support for the agricultural population which is dependent on the income from the agriculture. What we have is different programs called agricultural insurance, because we get hit by droughts and floods and things like that. We have seen some spurt of suicides within India related to agricultural population. But that’s been controlled through these programs. Second, as far as the marketplace is concerned, we need to set up a marketplace where the agricultural produce that we have. That means it should not be exploited by people in the middle who can buy things for any value, the producers would get the right value of the agriculture produce. What we are doing is setting up marketplaces in these rural areas, which goes out and they can sell to these marketplaces, and get better income because these produce are good, like one of the production that we do is basmati- I don’t know whether you know this rice. It has got about 50-60% more export and you have good value out of it. We need to bring down the level of transparency to that level. To give them a better income and then that’s the support that all these programs are trying to do.

VM: Now with these initiatives and the amount of data being created its imperative to choose who manages and who collects this data correctly. In that context how do you see the geospatial information regulation bill?

AS: Good question. It starts with this integrity, sovereignty of the country, and security of the country. So these are the three key aspects for any country. So obviously what the geospatial regulation bill wants to do is to ensure that the integrity, security and the sovereignty of the country is not compromised. Bringing and implementing this, there are certain regulations that has come through which has come to says that we are bringing back the licensing model of geospatial data any bills that are being created. Which means that if you look at from a standpoint of implementation, all these programs will create a lot of geospatial data which needs to be available to every citizen centric services to make it a successful program. But if you have to go back and whenever you’re creating a new data, and apply for licensing you’re looking at too much of uncertainty to these programs to be implemented on time long manner and efficient manner. Because what you have to do is whenever you are collecting new data, creating new data, you have to go back to the collectors to go back and say that okay I have got this new data. So to that extent they used everything that is mobile based and location based. All those location based services may take a hit if we do not try to say that these are the things which are possible and should be available in public and these are the things which need to be regulated. We need to have a very clear definition of what can be done in the public domain and what can be done in the private domain, or the regulated domain. If that is not it then I think we need to revisit the old geospatial policy framework as well as the regulation bill.

VM: It’s an exciting and important time for geospatial initiatives in India. Thank you so much for coming in today, we really appreciate your time.

AS: Thank you Veronica.

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