India is fast moving into being an information and knowledge society - especially with the emphasis on Information Technology and transparent e-governance. The next decade will see further large-scale investment in communications technology as India moves to exploit the full potential of the information age. Recent initiatives by the Government, including the IT Act, as well as announced plans for private and public investment, make it clear that within a few years an unprecedented capability will exist for sharing of data along electronic superhighways. Amongst the variety of datasets that would be involved, spatial (or map) information will be a major content. These Spatial information sets are vital to make sound decisions at the local, regional, state and central level planning, implementation of action plans, infrastructure development, disaster management support, and business development. Natural Resources management, flood mitigation, environmental restoration, land use assessments and disaster recovery are just a few examples of areas in which decisionmakers are benefiting from spatial information.

Until recently, maps (usually in paper form) have been a mainstay for a wide variety of applications and decision-making. This is changing as more spatially referenced data and information on a wider variety of topics or themes (e.g., population, land use, economic transactions, hydrology, agriculture, climate, soils) are being produced, stored, transferred, manipulated, and analyzed in digital form.

A new wave of technological innovation is allowing us to capture, store, process and display an unprecedented amount of geographical and spatial information about society and a wide variety of environmental and cultural phenomena. Much of this information is spatial - i.e. it refers to a coordinate system and is representable in map form. Current and accurate spatial data must be readily available to contribute to local, state and national development and contribute to decision making,economic growth, environmental quality and stability, and social progress.

India has, over the past years, produced a rich base of map information through systematic topographic surveys, geological surveys, soil surveys, cadastral surveys, various natural resources inventory programmes and the use of the remote sensing images. Further, with the availability of precision, high-resolution satellite images, data enabling by the organisation of Geographical Information System (GIS), combined with the Global Positioning System (GPS), the accuracy and information content of these spatial datasets or maps is extremely high.

Encapsulating these maps and images into a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) has been recognised and the emphasis is on information transparency and sharing, with the recognition that spatial information is a national resource and citizens, society, private enterprise and government have a right to access it, appropriately. Only through common conventions and technical agreements, standards, metadata definitions, network and access protocols will it be easily possible for the NSDI to come into existence.

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