GIS education reaching grassroots in India

College students conduct cadastral scale mapping for aiding local governance

Report by Dr. D. Nandakumar ( and Sekhar L. Kuriakose (

GIS is trickling down to grass root levels in India. Its application is wide spread in the country. However, education facilities necessary to support the demands of the large country are still meagre necessitating fraternal support from the geo-information science community all over the world. Despite the limitations in the available facilities, students from a city college used their newly acquired skills in GIS to produce maps that are set to aid the local government for the betterment of governance.

A year back, the students of the Department of Geography at Kariavattom Govt. College, Thiruvananthapuram, India lacked basic skills in computer based cartographic applications due to inadequate funds and lab facilities. With the financial support from Directorate of Collegiate Education, Government of Kerala, a job oriented add-on course in Digital Cartography was initiated. Since Geography department at Government College, Kariavattom lacked any lab with computers and software this course could be carried out only with the support from University College and Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IITM-K), Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram. Thus this course was launched with 26 students enrolled who were mostly from socially and economically weaker sections.

Map making is one of the primary focuses in any geography education. Conventionally, field data is compiled and converted into diagrams and maps are drawn on paper. Modern geographers feed the same field data into digital formats and produce digital maps. First batch of 26 students who completed the course last month, excelled in digital cartographic skills and they embarked to digitize and map the Kazhakkuttom Panchayat (smallest administrative unit in India) in which their college belongs. They set out with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and mapped places of worship, educational institutions, road and rail infrastructure etc. They went ahead and collected Census data and linked it to the spatial format and brought out thematic maps depicting population, working population etc. Kazhakkuttom Panchayat is the centrepieces of Kerala's IT sector, housing India's first technology park (Technopark), inaugurated by late prime minister P.V Narasimha Rao, and yet, the Panchayat lacked even a location map. The undergraduate BSc geography students who undertook the digital resource mapping had only an old computer to work on, and the entire project was completed on a shoestring budget of Rs. 45,000 (less than 725 EUR), before the map was handed over to Kazhakkuttom Panchayat president Sindhu Sasidharan. Some excerpts from the work are given below.

Cover of the Panchayat Atlas
The cover of the Panchayat Atlas that the students produced.

Administrative Organization (Ward) Map
Administrative Organization (Ward) Map.

Students handing over the maps to Ms. Sindhu Sasidharan, President, Kazhakkuttom Panchayat
Students handing over the maps to Ms. Sindhu Sasidharan, President, Kazhakkuttom Panchayat.

The local administration was very interested in the work carried out by the students and realized its value for effective governance. The student’s were elated to know that the local administration was curious to receive the results of their work. On 22 February 2010, they presented the thematic maps produced to Ms. Sindhu Sasidharan, President, Kazhakkuttom Panchayat at the Seminar Hall, Kariavattom Government College. Principal of the college, Dr. Abdul Rahim presided over the function. Mr. Rubin D'Cruz, Director, Kerala State Institute for Children’s Literature, while congratulating the students on their achievements, read out a message from the Honourable Minister for Education, Government of Kerala. The course will continue in the years to come and we request suggestions and support from the geoinformation fraternity.

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