The pertinence of GIS technology in current times: Agendra Kumar, Esri India

Agendra Kumar, managing director, Esri India spoke to Dataquest about how the perception towards GIS technology has changed

Supriya Rai
New Update
GIS technology

GIS Day, which is basically an annual event celebrating the technology of geographic information systems, is being commemorated today. Although there is a lot more awareness on the capabilities of GIS technology, industries are yet to realise the true power that the technology holds in terms of providing solutions for critical problems.  Agendra Kumar, managing director, Esri India spoke to Dataquest about how the perception towards GIS technology has changed over the years, and some of the common challenges that the industry faces.


DQ: How has the general perception towards Geographic Information System changed as opposed to what it used to be?

Agendra Kumar: India, being one of the fastest-growing economies, has a high focus on infrastructure development, digitalization and urbanization across sectors. GIS is already a core component in many major infrastructure development, healthcare, agriculture, and governance programs. Additionally, government interventions through strategic policy announcements are proving to be a game changer for the geospatial industry, accelerating the rapid adoption of geospatial technologies in different segments. This is leading to the development of many innovative solutions across various sectors. According to government estimates, the Indian Geospatial Economy is expected to cross INR 63,100 crore in 2025 at an impressive growth rate of about 12.8%. 

GIS technology is helping decision-makers, both in the government and private sectors, in using location-based analytics and integration with other business systems. It’s now becoming an inter-connected environment, where GIS accesses data from many sources and systems, helps in analysis and feeds data to different business systems. Looking at this kind of connectivity, people are preferring to move to Cloud and want to host their GIS infrastructure on Cloud, so that it becomes easier for them to scale up, scale down, manage and have better connectivity with other systems. 

Esri India

Agendra KumarMD Esri India

We are also witnessing a higher integration of Machine Learning and GIS. Esri’s ArcGIS has a lot of built-in capabilities for AI/ML, which enable our users to run different kinds of analytics on the data. Machine learning capabilities help them in tasks like feature extraction from images or videos and extracting data from different kinds of tabular or textual information. Many new capabilities are also getting developed in this realm.

DQ: The GIS industry is very dependent on data. How has the changing rules and compliances with relation to data privacy impacted the industry?


Agendra Kumar: In February 2021, the Government of India announced new geospatial data guidelines. These guidelines have removed a lot of restrictions, which were there on geospatial data collection, creation, storage, and dissemination. Such a positive change in the policy environment is leading to higher data creation and higher adoption of GIS. For instance, the creation of 3D data is helping many private sector organizations in building new applications, especially in areas like 5G deployment.

These policy guidelines are a step in the right direction to strengthen the geospatial infrastructure in the country. By easing collection, generation, preparation and dissemination of geospatial data and maps within the country, the new policy will enable sharing, collaboration, and easy access to data without any constraints.

Esri India’s Indo ArcGIS includes more than 630 data layers and some of these data layers are not commonly available. This brings a lot of value to our user community. Some of the examples are – data layers about road networks, especially in rural areas, railway stations, railway tracks, etc. which can help in logistics like the movement of goods through railways. We've also put together accurate information about the boundaries at different levels by working with various government organizations. Some of these data sets are important for a variety of geospatial applications, not only in the government sector but also in the private sector. These data layers are part of our ‘Living Atlas’ and are hosted on a Cloud in India.


DQ: What are some of the challenges that the industry faces?

Agendra Kumar: While the industry continues to grow, there have been multiple challenges that persist. The biggest challenge is the lack of awareness about the potential of geospatial technologies in solving critical issues. Lack of awareness hampers adoption and consequently the technologies remain underutilized. Even though the situation is improving, a lot is left to be done using geospatial technologies like GIS.

Another challenge is the lack of a skilled workforce. Geospatial technology implementation requires specialized skills, knowledge and understanding. Only effectively skilled people can endure the complexity of the problems and create effective solutions using geospatial technologies.


 DQ: Are there enough skilled individuals as far as GIS is concerned?

Agendra Kumar: Today, GIS is getting used in almost every industry leading to more informed decision-making and better outcomes. This increasing adoption of GIS is creating an increased demand for a geospatially skilled workforce, but there exists a gap in the availability of skilled individuals. 

As the leading provider of GIS solutions and services in the country, Esri India is playing a pivotal role in fulfilling the requirement of GIS professionals. Right from helping students to acquire knowledge and skills in GIS, we are continuously helping our workforce to gain advanced competence in the field. We are also upskilling our people through various management-related training programs so that they can take up larger responsibilities in the GIS field.

We are working with 800+ colleges and universities to skill students in the latest geospatial technologies. We are collaborating with academic institutes at all levels by way of learning resources, events, and training programs so that students can embark on GIS education, training, and research in a timely manner. We are also collaboratively running a program to skill rural women in GIS so that they can become an integral part of the mainstream GIS workforce. Some of our specialized programs to promote GIS know-how include Esri India GIS Academy Program (EIGAP), Young Scholar Contest, mApp Your Way, and more. 

GIS professionals who are associated with us are encouraged to upskill their technical competence by undertaking various certifications on ArcGIS. Esri India’s HR team conducts specialized training programs to help employees bridge the gaps, and thus transition to higher responsibilities.