Geospatial Infrastructure: Bridging the digital divide

Information and communication technologies (ICT) have redefined the order of the world in many ways in the 21st century. With its footprint across governance and businesses, ICT connectivity has transformed the way we see, the way we think and the way we work.

Advent of 5G and other ICT innovations viz. edge computing, deep learning, Internet of Everything (IoE), Everything as-a-service (XaaS), etc are further expected to bring connectivity to the centre stage in all the digital transformation initiatives.  

With a vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society, Digital India initiatives launched in recent years have improved access of digital infrastructure to citizens. Further the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) and affordable 4G services have driven the reach of internet in even thefarthest parts of India.

This digital infrastructure is empowering citizens with service accessibility and connectivity, enabling communities to participate in the governance. There is, however, still a need for us to ensure that the digital services are easily available, accessible, and affordable to all the sections of society. And realizing this vision is going to be difficult without the knowledge of “where” i.e., contextualized intelligence.  

We need to know which sections of the society are under serviced, where and which services or infrastructure are needed. To address such multidisciplinary challenges, we need spatial thinking.

It is no longer a secret that data can be transformative when distilled to the context of location. Geospatial infrastructure through a common language of maps, provides an incredibly powerful foundation to communicate, analyse and share information for solving complex problems.

Reducing the digital divide

Understanding the existing and future scenarios holds the key in designing a successful digital agenda and policy framework. With GIS, policy goals can be visualized in the geographic context of networks, connectivity, and digitalinequalities for establishing clear principles and priorities.This helps in defining data-driven mechanisms for extending connectivity, while building protection and online safeguards for vulnerable sections of the society.

Higher service accessibility

Given the diversity of various factors contributing to the success of e-delivery of citizen services, bringing them together becomes paramount. GIS technology provides an integrated-systems-based approach for intuitive understanding of what is going on at all scales – locally and regionally, which is critical in delivering impactful citizen services underdynamic and complex scenarios.

GeoHubs and mobile GIS apps collectively aid in better understanding of the contextualized citizen concerns while at the same time providing a unified platform for citizen engagement, collective problem-solving, decision-making, and perhaps most critical of all, collaboration.

Better responsiveness

We live in a connected world where dependence on communication is historically high. A disruption can swiftly transcend across the borders and can trigger breakdown across the ecosystems. Emergency preparedness and ability to respond and mitigate becomes vital for staying ahead of disruptive events and bouncing back rapidly in the event of unfortunate situations.

With advanced capabilities of GIS, it iseasier than ever, not only to have enhanced situational awareness and actionable intelligence, but also to build knowledge-based decision support systems for disaster risk information and analytics enabling timely interventions.

Collaborative intelligence

With many stakeholders and diverse factors contributing to the ecosystem – embracing complexity, enabling inclusive decision making and promoting flexibility, learning and innovation is paramount. GIS fosters participatory problem-solving by facilitating seamless interactions between stakeholders at different scales and providing real-time analytics.

By promoting multi-agency interaction on a common platform, armed with contextual and actionable intelligence, stakeholders can make informed decisionsharnessing collaborative intelligence.

In Closing

Geography and spatial thinking are essential for successful and all-inclusive digital transformation initiatives. By bringing together all the ecosystem players on a common framework and integrating them spatially and temporally, GIS platforms offer unmatched capabilities for intuitively understanding and discovering contextual insights from within data and transform how governments and communities see, think and act.  

It is time for us to fast-track the geo-enablement of our ICT frameworks so that we can accelerate bridging of the digital inequalities, promote innovative, collaborative, and inclusive industrialization and strengthen resilience.

 

Agendra Kumar, Managing Director, Esri India

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