National Geospatial Policy (NGP) is a citizen centric approach to data access and product development’
New Delhi, May 25 (G’nY News Service): In an exclusive interview with Dr. Bhoop Singh, Head, Natural Resources Data Management System (NRDMS) and Director, National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO) on the newly drafted National Geospatial Policy with G’nY correspondent, the affable scientist succinctly pointed out why we need the Geospatial Policy for the country.
This policy may be studied against the newly drafted The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 by the Ministry of Home Affairs which was recently discussed in various media. This Bill aims to ‘regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India which is likely to affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.’ As per the draft Bill acquiring, possession, dissemination and use of ‘geospatial information’ will be restricted and liable to legal penalty.
In a simultaneous development the NRDMS formulated the National Geospatial Policy (NGP) in addition to the drafted Bill to organise and standardise a well regulated Geo Informatics System (GIS) for the country. The Policy will work towards developing geospatial data and information in both human readable and machine readable form over web and mobile platforms in an obligatory and time bound output oriented manner, without compromising national security. It also aims to develop a level playing field for both government and private sectors for ease of business and proactively engaging them in various spheres of geospatial domain in the country. The NGP is put on the Department of Science and Technology (DST) website for public consultation up to May 30, 2016.
Dr. Singh elucidates on the need for a standardised National Geographical Information System in the country during our enlightening conversation.
G’nY: Don’t you think The Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 goes against the spirit of National Geospatial Policy?
Dr. Singh: No. Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 is basically meant to curve the offences being committed by the concerned geospatial agencies which often commit the mistake of wrongly demarcating the Indian international boundaries on selected websites compromising the security concern of the country and thereby posing a threat to the sovereignty of India. NGP conveys a citizen centric approach to data access and product development.
G’nY: NGP may just remain a policy, whereas the geospatial Bill can become a law that can be enforced. What are your views on it?
Dr. Singh: Yes, whether NGP will remain a Policy or not will depend on the citizens of the country who need to judiciously adopt it – accessing, integrating and converging the geospatial data. This is important for attending various applications considering the scope of the power of geospatial technologies. Whereas the geospatial Bill will be a law or act will be clear once it is approved in the Parliament after issuing the notification by the Government. Violation of the provision of this Act would certainly invite heavy penalty and rigorous imprisonment. Both are important and can be viewed in a positive spirit.
G’nY: What is the policy regarding crowd sourced geospatial data?
Dr. Singh: Crowd sourced geospatial data in my understanding would basically depend on the data acquisition agencies and how they are developing the servers where the data is uploaded. At present all the geospatial data generating agencies have federated databases and no crowd sourced geospatial data is used. This will be possible only when we are able to accept the common standards, projections, scale etc. to make the geo-enabled seamless spatial data either for village level, block level, state level or at national level. Once technology provides such options, the policy/rules will take care of the rest.
G’nY: What are the criteria to determining if a particular set of data is sensitive for security reasons?
Dr. Singh: As per the present policy of National Data Sharing and Accessibility, the data generating agencies will have to compulsorily classify those data which are non shareable/restricted. Restricted data are accessible only through a prescribed process. Such data are defined in various acts and rules of the Indian Government and are directly related to the security of the country.
G’nY: What mechanism would be in place to implement the policy?
Dr. Singh: Any policy or act or bill which is in force, need clear cut implementation guidelines. For NGP also, there would be policy implementation guidelines to be evolved, to make the policy implementable. However, we have not reached that stage; it is still in the offing.