A National GIS for India’s Development with Sam Pitroda

Sam Pitroda, adviser to India’s Prime Minister for Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation, highlights India's efforts to solve its challenges with geospatial technology.

Jun 28th, 2014

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00:02Welcome back.

00:08Welcome back for a wonderful afternoon.

00:10This is going to be full of...full of rich and interesting experiences.

00:14To start it off, I'm going to introduce you to a person I've known for a few years...

00:19...who has been the backbone, one of the foundations...

00:24...one of the foundation people who has revolutionized India with technology.

00:29Most of us know this technology revolution.

00:32This is...if I was going to pick one person, this is the man.

00:36He is the adviser to the prime minister.

00:39He holds many positions, including with the UN.

00:42He's an inventor, he holds over 100 patents...

00:47...well, I can go on and on about Sam Pitroda.

00:50Sam, why don't you come out?

00:51It's better.

00:55He's a great guy.

01:01I'm supposed to give Sam this because, you know, technology.

01:05Oh, you're going to use that, okay.

01:06Thank you, Jack.

01:07Anyway, Sam, welcome.

01:09Thank you, Jack.

01:12Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

01:18It's indeed a special privilege to be here with you.

01:25To share some of our work on GIS and technology in India.

01:34I want to thank Jack and Esri for giving me this opportunity.

01:42Looking at all of you--almost 10,000--it is, indeed, a very humbling experience.

01:56I'm going to talk first a little bit about India, and then about GIS.

02:08India is a very complex country.

02:13Very diverse in terms of genetic pool.

02:22We have deserts on west, rainforest on east, Himalayan Mountains on north...

02:34...6,500 kilometer of ocean front, and tropical jungles in south.

02:46This India is changing, and changing rapidly.

02:55India also has great deal of history, heritage, in our temples, languages, art, music...

03:07...2,700 years ago, India had best of the best universities in the world...

03:14...Takshashila, Nalanda, Ratnagiri.

03:19In 1760, India was the largest economy in the world--27 percent.

03:27In 1947, when India got independence from British Raj, Indian economy was about 2 percent of the world.

03:40And, as a result, founding fathers spent a lot of time on building higher education institutions and infrastructure...

03:52...research, and focused on agriculture, and to make energy, space research, medical research...

04:04...agricultural institutions, IITs for technology, IIMs for management.

04:11This was the focus in early days.

04:17Sixty-five years down the road we see a lot of the great benefits of all the seeds we had planted then.

04:30Technology has been the key driver in India's development.

04:38But we, some of us look at technology a little differently.

04:42We believe technology is a great social leveler, second only to death.

04:50Some of us also believe that the best brains in the world are busy...

04:54...solving problems of the rich who really don't have problems to solve.

05:00And, as a result, problems of the poor really don't get the right kind of talent.

05:06We have the largest number of poor in the world.

05:10We have huge amount of young talent, and we have moral responsibility to solve the problems of the poor.

05:18And that's where we believe technology, including GIS, is going to help us in the next couple of decades to come.

05:29Now, India is able to feed 1.3 billion people, and we also have surplus food.

05:39We are one of the largest producers of milk.

05:43I started my work in India after having spent about two decades in US on telecom in early 80s.

05:54Then, we had two million telephones for 750 million people.

06:01Just in a short span of 20 years, India is a nation of connected billion.

06:08We have 900 million telephones.

06:12And the key is to take this connectivity forward.

06:17India has been growing at the rate of 8 percent for the last seven, eight years leaving aside the last year and half.

06:26India generates over $100 billion worth of software export every year, year after year...

06:33...and we believe that number will go to $250 billion by 2025.

06:41This India is looking at technology to really create opportunities for the young.

06:50But this India has lots and lots of challenges.

06:54Challenges related to urban development, rural development, education, health.

07:03India is still a very poor country.

07:06Three hundred million illiterates, 400 million below poverty line--400 million--and that is the challenge.

07:16So everything we do has to take into consideration the bottom of the economic pyramid.

07:23All of our focus has to be on inclusive growth, and this demands that we understand...

07:31...affordability, scalability, and sustainability.

07:38We have 550 million young, below the age of 25.

07:43We need to create 12 to 15 million new jobs every year, year after year.

07:49How do you do that?

07:52And that is the main developmental agenda for us.

07:59So in a sense, from my perspective, there are really three challenges in India.

08:03Disparity--disparity between rich and poor--urban/rural, educated/uneducated.

08:11This disparity is very large, and we need to really narrow it a little bit.

08:18Second, demography.

08:21As I said earlier, 550 million young, below age of 25.

08:28Where everywhere else in the world, population is aging and decreasing, in India it is young and increasing.

08:37This is the workforce for the world.

08:40How do we train them, skill them, feed them, provide nutrition, create jobs, is the fundamental challenge for us.

08:52We also have to make sure that we do expedite the process of development.

08:59Everything is happening in India, but perhaps not at the pace we would like.

09:05We have three strategies on development.

09:09First, expansion--we need more schools, more hospitals, more teachers, more doctors...

09:16...more roads, more power plants more homes, more jobs.

09:23We also need to make sure that the quality of everything we do...

09:28...needs to be improved substantially.

09:31Leaving aside top five percent, ten percent of education, health, governance, everywhere.

09:39We need to really improve quality.

09:42And finally, equity.

09:45We have to make sure that the poorest of the poor can, indeed, get the best education possible.

09:56To do this, we have decided to focus on information.

10:02We believe a lot of the poverty has to do with the poverty of information.

10:10So we have a Right to Information, which has been introduced...

10:14...but we really don't have information organized in the manner people can use.

10:19So we believe information is going to be the fourth pillar of democracy in the twenty-first century.

10:28As you know, we are the largest democracy in the world.

10:33I remember many years ago, going to Soviet Union...

10:39...and I was with Gorbachev and couple of his associates.

10:45And one of his ministers told me, he said, Mr. Pitroda, we are so impressed with India...

10:52...mainly because we just don't know how you hold this country together without guns.

11:00Such a large country with so much of diversity, and you don't use guns to hold them together.

11:06What do you do?

11:08He said, If we turned our guns around, we know Soviet Union will have difficulty holding it together.

11:20And I think this democracy forces us to democratize information.

11:28If we democratize information, we believe we can really radicalize our democracy.

11:35So we are creating public information infrastructure to provide information to large number of people.

11:45And this would really integrate with geoinformation.

11:52Public information infrastructure really consists of various platforms.

12:00We have a platform to connect voice, which is already done.

12:03We are now building a platform to connect data.

12:07Then, for ID, every resident will get unique ID, facial, fingerprints, iris.

12:19And this ID will be plugged into all the applications, like bank account, mobile phone connection...

12:27...ration card, food distribution, employment guarantee schemes.

12:33And then we are creating now a nationwide platform for GIS to really tag every physical asset.

12:43With this, we have platform for cyber security, lots of government and public service applications.

12:53We are computerizing, for example, 32 million court cases.

12:59It takes 15 years to get justice today, and we believe by computerizing...

13:04...we will be able to reduce this to perhaps three to four years to get justice.

13:11We are computerizing prisons, police, intelligence agencies, food distribution...

13:19...passports, drivers license, employment programs.

13:25Sum total today, we have about 10,000 software people working in the government...

13:31...on computerizing lot of these applications.

13:34And this is where GIS would be plugged in, in the future.

13:40We are also providing electronic payment to a large number of people.

13:46We have several national portals on water, energy, environment, biodiversity.

13:53And we have created, in collaboration with the US government...

13:57...as a result of the visit of President Obama, open government platform.

14:04This platform is really launched in India and in US jointly, and now we are offering it...

14:12...to many other countries at no cost as a gift from US and India.

14:20We are already in Ghana and Rwanda, and we have list of about 20 countries.

14:27All of these platforms are really geared towards democratizing information.

14:35The first main network is known as Knowledge Network.

14:40It really has 1,500 nodes with 40-gigabit bandwidth to connect all of our universities...

14:47...all of our libraries, all of our R&D institutions to improve collaboration and share resources.

14:56This network is already built and it cost us about $2 billion.

15:01The next network is all about connecting 250,000 local governments to optical fiber.

15:11This is going to cost us about $7 billion.

15:16We believe in next 18 months to maybe 24 months, this network will be operational.

15:24It will connect all the way up to Punjab or villages, and this will allow us to really reengineer...

15:34...a lot of our processes, education system, will help us in agriculture, health, and delivery of public services.

15:50This has to really tie into our vision of empowerment.

15:55Our goal is to really empower a billion people through knowledge information.

16:03And this is where GIS, we believe, will play an important role.

16:07We have state level, local governments who control lot of the information, and we also...

16:16...have federal government with huge amount of information.

16:20So we need to work hand in hand with state as well as federal governments.

16:29We have been working with GIS for last 20 years on and off.

16:33We have used GIS in bits and pieces for many of these activities...

16:42...on energy, transport, farming, and many other areas.

16:47We use GIS for disaster management, many of the government projects.

16:52But now we need to really extend benefits and create a platform to link up with all of the other activities.

17:03So our real vision is to have new information regime supporting good governance, good public service...

17:12...sustainable development, and, ultimately, empowering billion people.

17:22So the value proposition for us relates to geotagging all the assets...

17:28...like the UID for the residents; planning and monitoring of government funds and programs...

17:34...and [unintelligible], transparency in the government; because we do believe that information...

17:40...brings about openness, accessibility, connectivity, networking, democratization...

17:46...decentralization, and, as a result, generational transformation.

17:53All of our cities and centric services would be plugged into GIS.

17:58And we really need to focus not only on citizen services--also on enterprise applications, government applications...

18:06...and, as a result, GIS platform will have infrastructure, asset, portal...

18:16...a national portal, and we need to build human capacity.

18:22Like in Intellicom in early 80s, we started with training 1,000 engineers in digital communication.

18:30Then we took 1,000 more and trained them on high-speed computing...

18:36...and that gave us the platform and resource to build software industry.

18:43We believe we will have to do something similar on GIS at this stage...

18:48...because going forward the human capacity is going to be a big challenge.

18:56So in governments, rural development ministry, for example, can benefit substantially from GIS.

19:06Mining, water--all of the applications in the examples you saw in the morning...

19:13...give us more confidence to really build these applications in the near future to help us...

19:20...in managing of our resources, improving productivity, increasing efficiency.

19:27We have several programs on e-governance today.

19:33Besides computerizing courts, there are special programs...

19:37...on e-governance which also would need plug-in to GIS services.

19:43And for enterprise, there are all kinds of applications.

19:50Earlier, we were talking about census data with couple of friends during coffee break.

19:57And we said if the kind of applications we saw earlier, if we can get birth certificate online...

20:04...immediately at the time of birth, maybe the whole census meaning would change.

20:10We have launched our own satellite for imaging.

20:16We have lots and lots of different groups working on variety of applications today...

20:22...in agriculture, land management, health services.

20:28And the idea is to bring all of this together.

20:31When we started looking at this three years ago, we realized that we have almost 10 different maps in the country.

20:40Everyone has their own map.

20:42Water department map is different from revenue department.

20:45It's very different from telecom, gas authority.

20:51Each one has their own boundaries.

20:55And to get everyone to come together on a platform, to agree to a common map...

21:00...took us almost a year and a half.

21:04Information is power nobody wants to share.

21:08And we learn hard way, that if we want to succeed in this area...

21:13...we've got to get everybody collaborating together and accepting one, common standard.

21:23These are some of the national assets and some of the state-level assets.

21:29All of these assets will have to seamlessly work together.

21:33And it's not very easy to work with different states.

21:37We have around 30 different states, 15 different languages.

21:44Some of our states have 200 million people, like a country.

21:52And to get all of these to work together is, indeed, a major challenge for us.

21:58Capacity building is the core of our program on national GIS.

22:05We need to get right in early school education--understanding of GIS.

22:13We need to train people in the government, we need to train management people...

22:21...we need to educate our politicians, we need to create special university...

22:27...special courses, and we believe a lot of this is going to take a decade.

22:33This is one of those items which is not going to happen in the next three to five years.

22:39For us, the fundamental drivers are minimizing cost, improving efficiencies, enhancing public services.

22:54You look at our five-year plans which are documented in three big books close to 1,000 pages.

23:04Hardly anybody reads those plans.

23:08Now we are digitizing, making it available to large number of people, including schools and colleges.

23:16All of these things are just beginning to happen.

23:22The key at this stage is connectivity, access, organizations, policies...

23:33...and we do realize that we need special organization for GIS.

23:39We need special policy framework for GIS, and we do need focus on innovations.

23:47So National GIS Agency will look at capacity building, policies, manage portal...

23:58...create infrastructure, provide services, and manage assets.

24:06It will also tie in with a lot of the other agencies like remote sensing...

24:12...aerial survey, National Organization for Maps.

24:22All of this work has just started.

24:28What do we hope to achieve from all of this?

24:33We do believe that information would improve transparency, accountability...

24:39...would address issues related to corruption, misunderstanding, waste of resources...

24:47...and would make government more accountable.

24:50It will empower citizens, it will provide knowledge to a large number of people...

24:56...and, hopefully, because of the size of the country, we will be able to provide the kind of leadership...

25:04...that we need at all levels to integrate GIS into many government programs.

25:13These are some of the applications we are working on right now.

25:19Land acquisition, wasteland development, water, agriculture, mining...

25:29...and all of that, planning does use GIS today.

25:37But at the end of the day, we really need Indian model of development.

25:42We believe the western model based on consumption...

25:47...is just not scalable, sustainable, workable, desirable, for India.

25:54We cannot have education at the cost of $30,000 a year tuition.

26:01It's just not scalable.

26:04We have to focus on affordability.

26:06Everything we do has to be affordable.

26:10I always give this example on telecom.

26:14I've been in the telephone business for about 50 years.

26:17Per line cost of telephone line remains $1,000 a line.

26:25And, as a result, it took us 110 years to get a billion telephones in the world.

26:33Then came mobile telephony.

26:37Cost went from $1,000 to $500 a line, to $200 to $100, and it went to $80.

26:45All of a sudden, in 15 years, we had 6 billion more mobile phones.

26:52So everything we do in India has to keep in focus, bottom of the economic pyramid and affordability.

27:02We do cataract surgery for a dollar and a half.

27:06We do quadruple bypass for $2,000 as opposed to $20,000 or $50,000 or $70,000.

27:16All of these things require Indian model of development.

27:22Indian way of innovating.

27:27Innovating for the poor.

27:30And this is the challenge for all of us.

27:36These models don't exist anywhere else.

27:39Everyone is quick to look up to the US and the west for all kinds of solutions, which is great.

27:49But at the end of the day, if we can't change the past model, it has no applications in India except for the top of the pyramid.

28:00Take, for example, auto.

28:03Can we really develop a system where everybody in India and China would have a car?

28:09It's a scary thought.

28:12How can we have a billion, 1.3 billion cars in India?

28:15What does it mean to environment?

28:18So we need to find new solutions for transportation.

28:23A lot of these things require generational change and not incremental change.

28:30The biggest challenge for us is mindset.

28:34I tell many of my colleagues today that we have 19th century mind-set...

28:41...20th century processes, and 21st century technology, and 21st century needs.

28:48We've got to think very differently.

28:53Finally, the real challenge is to reduce disparity in the next couple of decades.

29:032010-2020 has been declared by government of India as the decade of innovation.

29:10We have National Innovation Council, state-level innovation councils...

29:15...and the focus is to pain young to think differently.

29:22We believe through innovative ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, we'll be able to address challenges...

29:28...related to disparity, expedite development, and really focus on demographic dividend.

29:38If we don't focus on 550 million young, it would be a major challenge for us going forward.

29:46I'm confident, mainly because of technology of today.

29:52Whether it is information and communication, cloud computing, open-source software...

29:57...fiber optics, smartphones, and all that; or, biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials...

30:09...alternate energy--all of these things give us hope to find new solutions.

30:16I'm big on India mainly because of technology and the young talent.

30:23But I do realize that we have a long way to go.

30:26Journey is just beginning, and it will perhaps take a decade or two.

30:33But the success we had in telecom gives me the confidence that it can be done.

30:40We need help.

30:41We look forward to your support, your understanding, and once again I want to thank Jack...

30:49...for giving me this opportunity and I wish you all a great conference, thank you.

31:00Wonderful, thank you Sam. Thank you very much. It's great. Sam is one of the reasons why I have confidence about the future.

31:14This is leadership, isn't it? My God. Really, Sam, thank you. My great pleasure to have you here. Thanks.

31:20Thanks. Thanks.

31:27Roger Tomlinson, at lunch, we were talking. If we'd only met Sam 30 years ago...wasn't that your comment, Roger?

31:36It's great. It is the kind of leadership that we need for the future.

31:42It's the kind of leadership we need to turn it around. That kind of top-down thinking.

31:47But also, not just baloney. I'm talking about people that actually have done things.

31:52He did things, and he continues to do it today. Transforming our future.

Copyright 2016 Esri
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