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India’s New Geospatial Data Policy Is A Game Changer: Agendra Kumar, Esri

India’s New Geospatial Data Policy Is A Game Changer: Agendra Kumar, Esri

kumar Gandharv
  • As per the Government of India's own estimates, the Geospatial Data economy itself is going to be about 1 lakh crores by the year 2030.

Esri India is a global leader in end-to-end Geographic Information Systems (GIS) solutions. Analytics India Magazine caught up with Agendra Kumar, Managing Director, Esri India, to understand location intelligence India’s GIS landscape and Esri’s innerworkings.

“With the new Geospatial Policy in place, we foresee an increase in data availability that will further fuel application development. Clubbed with the integration capability of GIS with ERP, IoT, AI/ML and other emerging technologies, we believe that adoption in the enterprise sector will go up significantly,” said Agendra. 

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Excerpts:

AIM: How Esri GIS solutions help governments and enterprises make informed decisions?

Agendra Kumar: Governments rely on data for decision making as GIS is being used for monitoring environmental change, rising sea level, habitat protection, urban planning, design & managing smart cities, and multi-modal transportation systems using this technology.

With increasing digitisation, the data being captured has grown significantly. More than 80% of this data has location information that is still not utilised. Esri GIS technology provides advanced mapping, spatial & imagery analytics capabilities to understand their data better and make informed decisions. Global food retail chains leverage Esri ArcGIS to identify the most suitable locations for setting up new outlets based on consumer backgrounds, demographics, and eating preferences.

Similarly, non-life insurance companies integrate satellite imagery, GIS-based mobile apps and data collected from drones and field surveys in their GIS systems. This helps in risk modelling, and by combining various parameters like soil health, weather predictions, crop type with the insured area, they can define the right insurance amount. In case of any damage to the crop from fire or natural calamities, they can use the image data to assess the damage, calculate the value lost and disburse the amount to the farmers in a short period.

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AIM: What is your take on MoS&T’s new Geospatial Data Policy guidelines?

Agendra Kumar: The new Geospatial Data (geo-data) policy is a game changer and  has opened the floodgates of opportunities for the geospatial infrastructure across sectors. As per the Government of India’s own estimates, the Geospatial Data economy itself is going to be about 1 lakh crores by the year 2030. GIS being crucial in infrastructure development, healthcare, agriculture, and governance programs, will witness an acceleration in its adoption rate. 

Geo-data produced using public funds can be ploughed back into the geospatial economy for reuse and value addition – bringing down data creation costs and improving turnaround time. With the freedom to use geo-data for building applications, solutions, and products – monetising data now becomes much more accessible. While geo-data monetisation adds up as a value creation stream for the governments and data producers, geo-data creation and supply on its own has the potential to be a mini-industry within the geospatial industry. 

AIM: Do you feel India lacks skilled talent to cash in on this opportunity? What’s Esri’s game plan to address this? 

Agendra Kumar: Many issues the world is facing today are fundamentally tied to space and location – geographic issues, to be precise. In order to deal with these issues, Geospatial literacy is the key. The workforce needs to access and use geographic information to make wise decisions. Working professionals need to be trained and should understand the value of GIS, or else industry growth would be limited, and we may not be able to leverage the full potential. 

We support various institutions with the latest geospatial technologies, helping them create course content and providing training to augment their efforts in imparting geospatial education to make their students more employable. We ensure availability of GIS technology to every student at colleges or universities irrespective of his/her field to gain an understanding of GIS with hands-on experience. We also work with various government bodies like the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA), the Department of Science & Technology (DST), and the Institute of Town Planners, India (ITPI) for skilling professionals with the latest GIS technologies.  

AIM: Tell us about the Esri India Young Scholar Program.

Agendra Kumar: It is an annual nationwide competition that celebrates excellence in geospatial study and provides a global platform for higher education students to showcase their GIS capabilities. This program encourages and enables students to work on real-world challenges leveraging GIS technology in their projects. These can include comprehensive research papers, software development, impactful maps, and apps that promote education, conservation, indoor mapping, drone analytics, health etc. 

Apart from being recognised at the country level, one of the Young Indian Scholars gets to showcase his/her GIS project at an international level via the Esri User Conference – an annual virtual conference that saw the participation of more than 80,000 GIS professionals last year. This year, students have submitted projects on how GIS can help in managing various issues, including sustainable urban water supply, the impact of waterlogging on urban mobility, multiscale landslide hazard mapping and environmental management of construction and demolition waste. 

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AIM: Give us a sneak peek into your product portfolio. Also, what sets you apart in the market?

Agendra Kumar: ArcGIS — Esri’s flagship product integrates cloud computing, AI and ML, IoT, 3D, reality capture and data science, which users can apply in their day-to-day work. For e.g., Spatial machine learning and deep learning AI models are integrated into ArcGIS to help our users solve complex problems. It also includes ready-to-use deep learning models. These models have been pre-trained by Esri on huge volumes of data. They can be readily used to automate the tedious task of digitising and extracting geographical features from satellite imagery and point cloud datasets. These deliver a significant value to the users as training models are usually time-consuming, and most users do not have access to exhaustive training datasets.

We spend about 30% of our revenues on R&D every year to ensure access to innovative technologies for users and help them solve dynamic problems. Additional features helping Esri stand ahead in the market include:

  • Products are built on open standards to support interoperability and engineered to enable customers to configure first and customise later. 
  • ArcGIS can easily integrate with other business or enterprise IT systems like ERP, BI and CRM.
  • Esri provides developer tools that support an array of SDKs and APIs using which ArcGIS capabilities can be extended. 
  • Offering various datasets with its software helping users to start from a base dataset and layers on which they can add more data. 
  •  New apps can be created without any coding, which can be readily deployed on multiple platforms.

ArcGIS system comes with access to Living Atlas of the World – the foremost collection of geographic information from around the world, including India specific authoritative data layers, which is continuously updated.  

AIM: Why is Mapping and GIS important for an organisation, especially in India? 

Agendra Kumar: GIS-based systems have become imperative for organisations in a large country like India with the kind of demographic spread to manage operations and deliver products and services to their customers. This is applicable across sectors including retail, manufacturing and various Central and State Government ministries. For example, the AEC (Architecture Engineering and Construction) industry is seeing greater adoption of geospatial technologies. Remote sensing and imagery analytics are being used extensively for site suitability and pre-project planning. Drone-based surveys and GIS-based apps are used for faster data collection, ground-truthing and other project workflows like construction planning and monitoring. 

GIS technology is at the core of the smart cities initiative. Right from setting up a GIS-based public portal for data sharing and offering citizen services to establishing and running infrastructure for urban mobility, waste management, smart street lighting, safety and security, GIS plays a foundational role. We are already working on more than 40 smart cities in India.

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