Geospatial data is a commodity that is used every day by governments for policy development and execution, environmental management, disaster response, agriculture, health care, transportation planning, delivery of clean drinking water, land-records management, combating poverty, sustainable economic development, defence as well as food security. Geospatial data is indispensable element of effective governance, including E-government, transparency in government, good science, and better decision making. Simply put, government needs geospatial data in order to govern. Therefore, public sector data producers have an obligation to facilitate access to their national geospatial data assets. One special characteristic of geospatial data is, it can be shared and used for many other purposes than the one, for which, it was originally produced. To facilitate its efficient sharing and reuse, it needs to be properly managed. This is one of the reasons that many countries are developing National Spatial Data Infrastructures (NSDIs). NSDIs are becoming an essential element of each country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) plan. Well maintained NSDIs not only empower governments but also citizens and institutions as well.
Pakistan is among those countries where the development and delivery of digital information from spatial and non-spatial data is on the political agenda. In 2005, Government of Pakistan (GoP) announced its E-government programme to ensure quick supply of information to user communities. However, the focus has been more on the production and dissemination of non-spatial component of the information while ignoring the location or spatial part of this information. Many believe that to generate reliable and actionable information for informed decisions as well as governance, spatial and non-spatial data are essentially required.
In Pakistan, immense spatial data is available with various public and private sector organizations. Although, Government of Pakistan (GoP) is funding public sector organizations to develop spatial data, but at the same time, there are redundancies in collection and maintenance of spatial data in the country. Moreover, the dilemma is that presently, only a small part of this funded data is being benefited for empirical decision making process. The public sector organizations are independently acquiring and maintaining potentially duplicative and costly datasets and systems. Therefore, lot of public money and effort can be saved annually by controlling duplication of efforts in spatial data production through establishment of NSDI in the country.
Survey of Pakistan is well aware of NSDI concept and is already working on it. Multi scale digital topographic data of entire country is available in the department. SoP is member of the most renowned international mapping project i.e. Global Mapping. The department is actively participating in national and international conferences to share knowledge and expertise. In 1998, SoP participated in Survey of National and Regional Spatial Data Infrastructure conducted by GSDI. GSDI in its survey, acknowledged SoP as leading agency for NSDI in Pakistan. In 2005, the department participated in GSDI-8 conference. In 2009, SoP shared two research papers with international geospatial community, one in GSDI-11 and 2nd in 7th FIG (Federation of International Surveyors) Conference. European Union in its report, PPP4SDI, published in 2008 declared that SoP have SDI expertise whereas SDI-Asia and Pacific same year declared SoP as focal point for SDI in Pakistan. Survey of Pakistan has been mandated by the Government of Pakistan to establish NSDI in the country as lead organization.SoP is practicing and implementing NSDI concept in its domain. Objectives of NSDI can be better achieved if other geospatial data producers collaborate with SoP for NSDI development in Pakistan.