Sanjay Kumar: In a first, US appoints Indian to advise it on earth-observation and remote-sensing policies

India’s growing might in earth observation, remote sensing, mapping, and location technologies has got a shot in the arm, with the US department of interior appointing an Indian to its prestigious National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC).

Delhi-based Sanjay Kumar, CEO of Geospatial Media and Communications and Secretary General of World Geospatial Industry Council, is the first Indian to be inducted to NGAC.

In November last year, Kumar was conferred the Global Geospatial Industry Ambassador award by the United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management.

The US Department of Interior also inducted 11 other individuals under the stewardship of Keith Masback, who currently serves on the board of directors of NGAC and is the former CEO of United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.

The NGAC is a federal advisory body that provides advice and recommendations on US’ geospatial policy and management issues, the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure or NSDI, and the implementation of the Geospatial Data Act of 2018. The NSDI promotes data-sharing across all levels of the US government, the private and non-profit sectors, and the academic community. The US Geological Survey provides support services to the NGAC. Its members serve a staggered three-year term on the committee.

When contacted on his appointment, Kumar said, “I am honored to be appointed to the NGAC. I have been associated with the global geospatial industry for over two decades now and this opportunity will help me represent the cross sections of stakeholders, who I have been working with and provide them a holistic view of the geospatial community ecosystem.”

But will his appointment help India, which still doesn’t have a clear geospatial policy?

“I am particularly excited that this comes across as an opportunity to learn a lot in terms of understanding geospatial policies, practices, and industrial ecosystem of the US and leverage that understanding and knowledge to support and advocate for open and forward-looking policy developments in India. As the US and India have constructive political and business relationships, I hope my engagement would help strengthen the cooperation in the fields of geospatial knowledge and technology sharing,” Kumar added.

India is increasingly becoming a guiding force in earth observation, remote sensing, and location technologies. The government is currently running 163 geospatial-related projects across over 50 departments. Large sums of money have been pumped into projects, including the Ganga-cleaning project and many health and education schemes, that use geospatial data as a technology backbone.

“We live in an information age, which is fundamentally driven by information infrastructure. Geospatial offers the foundational layer to this information infrastructure. India, which had earlier lost the opportunity to leverage the third industrial revolution on time, should not miss this opportunity to [cash in on] the fourth industrial revolution.”

According to him, India has phenomenal capacity in the fields of information technology, space, and remote-sensing infrastructure.

“We have a host of organisations focused on geospatial knowledge. What we need is to give a fresh and comprehensive look at transforming these institutions and empower them to build a robust dynamic real-time geospatial infrastructure, which could serve the greater needs of development and governance, security as well as citizen welfare.”

The geospatial industry in India was estimated to be worth USD1.1 billion in 2017-18 and is expected to grow at 13.8% in the near term.

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