Esri India User Conference focuses on ‘Geo-Enabling Digital India’

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The announcement of the ‘Digital India’ initiative by the Government is an important step in reforming governance through the use of information technology. The strategic plan aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. GIS, in fact, will play an important role in the roll-out of the Digital India vision. Various ministries and departments are being encouraged to use GIS technology in their programs for planning, implementing and monitoring the execution.

Recognizing this, the theme of the 15th edition of Esri India’s User Conference was ‘Geo-Enabling Digital India’. The conference held on December 9-11, 2014 in Delhi, focused on how GIS would play a significant role in full-service orientation and become a core component in the digital infrastructure, enabling the process of governance, planning, and nation building.

Various thought leaders, eminent speakers and technology experts from the GIS industry shared their knowledge and experiences with GIS and talked about how the technology could be leveraged for geo-enabling digital India.

The conference was kicked off by Mr Agendra Kumar, President, Esri India. He set the context for the conference by providing insights on how GIS could support the Digital India initiative.

Dr. Vandana Sharma, Advisor (Remote Sensing and GIS Division), National Informatics Centre (NIC) gave a talk on the ‘GIS Platform for Digital India’. She spoke about NIC’s efforts towards creating a platform for creating and integrating GIS applications. Dr. Aruna Srivastava, Consultant, National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) presented her view on ‘GIS in Decision support of Vector Borne Disease control in India’. She provided real life examples of the application of GIS in the health sector and its use in the control of diseases like Malaria, Dengue and Chikungunya.

In addition, NASSCOM President, R Chandrasekhar presented Esri India’s prestigious Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) awards and the Making a Difference award at the event. The SAG awards recognizes users who had applied geospatial technology innovatively to address the needs of their industries and communities and defined GIS best practices. The award was presented to Forest Survey of India (FSI), the Geographical Survey of India (GSI) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB). The ‘Making a Difference award’ went to National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) acknowledging the efforts of NDDB in revolutionizing the dairy planning process across India that brought together all stakeholders up to village level.

As a part of Lightening Talks sessions, users presented their unique applications developed using Esri technology. Mr. Manoj Arora, VP-Flight Operations of Jet Airways talked about how GIS is helping the airline in flight height & path planning and operations. Mr. Sheshadri T., IT Head, Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), shared how the ArcGIS software based system had helped the company improve governance and service efficiency and how the automated workforce and GIS reporting with detailed dashboards had facilitated more informed decision making. Mr. M.L. Srivastav, Deputy Inspector General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) provided glimpses of various GIS-based applications being used for the real time monitoring of forest fires, building a national forest inventory, etc.

One of the key highlights of the conference was a dedicated track on 'GIS and Smart Cities' hosted in collaboration with Institute of Town Planners, India. The key objective of the track was to reinforce the use of GIS in the end-to-end smart city planning and management. The track featured eminent speakers such as Dr. Najammuuddin, Secretary General, Institute of Town Planners, India (ITPI), Mr. Anand Singh Bahl, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Urban Development, Mr. Shishir Rai, Assistant VP, Planning, GIFT City, Mr. Kapil Chaudhery, Director, Spatial Decisions, Prof Chetan Vaidya and Dr. G S Rao including many others. The track concluded with a key message that GIS will provide a central IT framework which integrates every aspect of a smart city – from conceptualization, planning and development to maintenance.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion on the theme “Geo-Enabling Digital India”, moderated by Mr. Rakesh Raina, Sr. Vice President– India Business, Esri India. The panelists included Mr. S K Sinha, Director, TNP & A&N GDC, Survey of India, Dr. (Mrs). Manosi Lahiri, M L Infomap, Dr. P. S. Acharya, CEO, National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), Mr. A K Gosain, Professor, Dept. of Civil Engineering, IIT Delhi. They discussed on “how to ensure that GIS becomes integral part of every government project, what are possible challenges, what will be industry participation in digital India.”

The panelists acknowledged and highlighted that GIS would be an integral part and backbone of the Digital India initiative.

The conference also included a Developer Summit, Systems Architecture and Design Strategy seminar, technical expo and paper and poster presentations. There was a buzzing exhibition floor where Esri India and various other companies like HERE, HP, Trimble and Cybertech displayed their offerings. In addition, users from across India presented papers and posters and participated in the contests that were organized over the three days of the conference.