The future belongs to GIS (Geographic Information System). Its capability to enhance national economy can only be called stupendous. The only moments when GIS loses its significance could be when one is engrossed in a monologue with oneself…
Organisations across the world functioning in diverse fields are increasingly using GIS to analyse data, communicate key information and solve complex problems and thereby create a better life for us. GIS, for instance, can help predict the intensity of traffic, throw light on crime patterns and potential threats, estimate the real time impact of natural disasters, understand key trends such as employment growth or decline, track climate changes and more.
Stakeholders — all of us —value GIS as an integrated and indispensable platform that empowers us with actionable intelligence and takes us closer to a smarter world through geo-powered governance initiatives. GIS has a key role in improving land administration and developing smart cities built on artificial intelligence and smart utilities.
The Middle East, following the global trend, has embraced GIS in a big way, and notably the Sultanate has made great advancements in its adoption and implementation. A few years back, the Sultanate represented by the National Centre for Statistics & Information (NCSI) was honoured at the International User Conference organised by the California based Environmental Systems Research Institute, a leading supplier of GIS software and applications, for its innovative use of GIS technology as reflected in NCSI’s Tour Oman mobile application that allows tourists to locate destinations of tourist significance and an array of service facilities.
The Sultanate’s geo-spatial projects are coordinated by the Oman National Spatial Data Infrastructure (ONSDI), a government initiative aimed at providing a standardised geo-spatial infrastructure to coordinate, facilitate, and support sharing and utilisation of organised and updated Geospatial Information across government entities.
Its initiatives include online data sharing portal, National Geospatial Database, Unified national map, Mobile and web applications, Geospatial capacity building efforts, Unified Geosmart permit issuing system in association with Municipalities, Geo Cloud services and more. A key geo-spatial project is the Unified Addressing System that provides all buildings, streets, offices and other buildings with a unique address and facilitates interoperability across multiple government departments.
ONSDI also works as a great enabler of smart cities by facilitating the linkage of open data, IoT and e-governance along with retail, health, tourism, mobility, education, agriculture and energy. And in its digital transformation projects ONSDI is being actively supported by the Oman Information Technology Authority.
And the Sultanate is all geared up to geo-enable the country’s digital transformation, as was revealed at the NSDI symposium held this week. GIS was hailed as a vital tool for establishing a Smart Nation and enabling diverse organisations to ride the digital wave if used innovatively.
ONSDI was established by the Supreme Council for Planning in 2014, with a view to setting up an authentic source of National Geo-Spatial Information for all civil government and semi-government entities, academia, businesses and the public.
NCSI, on the other hand, supports ONSDI through various projects that include developing National Geo-Spatial Policies and Standards based on global standards but suited to local requirements; geo-enabling of the National e-Transformation Projects in coordination with ITA; establishing a National Geospatial portal to provide user access to various GIS resources; developing National Geospatial Data Sets; designing the required IT infrastructure to offer geospatial services; developing the Information Security mechanism for GeoSpatial Information; establishing a training centre for GIS; implementation of e-learning portal for GIS specific topics; and developing a Unified National Basemap.
NCSI is also tasked with providing online GeoSpatial eServices for public and stakeholders; creating GIS Web and Mobile Applications for GeoSpatial awareness; providing GeoSpatial Advisory Services for optimum utilisation of GIS for achieving business goals; contributing to the National Open Data Policy with the GeoSpatial Datasets; developing open datasets for public use; optimising GIS Investment by avoiding duplication of cost; offering a centralised licence procurement mechanism; organising periodic Geospatial events to raise awareness about GIS and several others major initiatives.
The Sultanate is exploring how GIS technologies could be harnessed in the most innovative ways towards improving the functioning of not just government and semi-government entities, but commercial firms and academic institutions as well.
Isn’t it befitting that Oman, known for its spectacular geographical and cultural features that earned it the sobriquet ‘The Jewel of Arabia’, is a pioneer in the region in applying geo-spatial information to make life smarter and happier? Three cheers for GIS!