Geospatial Data Creation and Sharing- A Gateway to National Development

--Major Md. Zamil Hossain Munshi

08. Hamil Hossain Munshi

A fundamental role of any government is to provide optimized service to its administrative areas-from economic development to planning, law enforcement, public works and services etc.  Generally all these are portrayed on map of different kinds for planning purpose. Survey of Bangladesh (SOB), being the National Mapping Organization (NMO) for Bangladesh had been facilitating Armed Forces, other Government, Non-government, autonomous organizations and even individual researchers with various data and maps of those kinds. With the passage of time, people of different groups started using data behind the map more extensively than before. These geospatial data are generally being processed through Geographical Information System (GIS). Although this organisation had been using some kind of GIS software as cartographic enhancement tools but never took venture for creation of geospatial database till 2003. However, the on-going “Improvement of Digital Mapping System (IDMS)” project of SOB has opened up new horizon for the GIS database creation which has become a need for the country. And here comes the strength of SOB where topo-heritage of more than 250 years has blended with highly technical knowledge on precision and quality.

Creation of GIS Database at SOB and Its Potential Uses

Creation of GIS database in the developing country like Bangladesh is not that easy job like other developed countries. As we understand five components i.e. people, hardware, software, data and procedure make a complete GIS. Here we had to face challenges in almost all the components. Starting with people i.e. human resource development for this job was quite challenging in the very first stage. It will not be irrelevant to mention that there were people who even never touched computer due to different mode of commitment in the map making processes but after extensive training in home and abroad, the same people now turned into assets of the nation.

Their topographic sense blended with technological advancement are enhancing the job of map making process easier than never before and thus producing an excellent and quality GIS database.

On the other hand, selection of hardware and software for the organisation was also a challenging job. Because at each step SOB has to focus on the outcome we dream to produce and equally on the potential users who can use our products without incurring any further cost to develop. Again, to create GIS basic database, choice of specifications, datasets and data collection processes within stipulated time were quite thought-provoking too. Hence attentions were also given to the data collection time and type of data so that collected data should help SOB to produce new base map of 1:25,000 scale and also urban map of 1:5,000 scale for 5 different divisional cities.

Types of GIS Databases

SOB aims to produce three types of databases, namely:

  • Topographic database
  • Cartographic database for production of digital maps
  • GIS basic database for external users.

However, there is another aspiration to develop map and geospatial data services over the internet too in order to help citizen to have the facility at their door step.

GIS Database Specification

Specifications are needed to build Geo-database. The SOB basic GIS database contains about 11 datasets with 74 layers for 1:25,000 scale and 92 layers for 1:5,000 scale Table-2 shows the list of datasets used in the different map scales.

Table-2: GIS Datasets


Map Scale



Administrative Boundary Administrative Boundary
Annotation Annotation
Building And Structure Building And Structure
Facilities Facilities
Geodetic Control Point Geodetic Control Point
Hydrographic Feature Hydrographic Feature
Industry Industry
Relief Relief
Transportation Transportation
Vegetation Vegetation

In order to develop GIS Database specification, following factors have been considered:

  1. a.   Feature Code. 8 digits feature code specification has been used where it says:


  • First 3 digits = Name of Dataset  in abbreviated  form (TRN = Transportation)
  • Next 2 digits = Geometry range (For point = 10-39; for line = 40-69; for polygon=70-99).
  • Next 2 digits = Category serial number of a particular feature class.
  • Next 1 digit = Geometry type (P for point, L for line and A for polygon )


  1. b.   Coordinate System.
  • Grid Name: BUTM2010
  • Reference Ellipsoid: WGS84

Usage of GIS Data of SOB

It is known to all that GIS data can be used for limitless multiple purposes and hence SOB GIS data is also not an exception to this. SOB understands that different GIS software has got different analysis tools to use, but our main aim is to prepare compatible and user friendly data for the potential users so that they might not waste their money developing up to this. Since our all data based on 3D plotting, hence users will be highly benefited using our most precise 3D data in regards to any kinds of analysis. Moreover 10m/20m DTM points of photogrammetric output, Ortho-rectified Image along with our basic data will definitely enhance the output of the users’ requirements like disaster managements etc. Table-3 shows few areas of field of applications on which analysis can be made.

Table-3: GIS Analyzing Activities on the Basis of Field of Applications

Field of applications


Agriculture Monitoring, evaluation and management etc.
Environment Monitoring, modelling and management for land degradation; weather and climate modelling, prediction and forecasting; river and coastal erosion modelling; flood management etc.
Health Aerial distribution of different diseases in relation to environmental factors ; visualizing changes in the occurrence of a disease over time   etc.
Intelligence Monitoring, tracking, evaluation and management etc.
Forestry Management, planning; map prepare for site specific matching etc.
Regional/local planning Development of plans, maintenance, management; infrastructure development programme, land registration etc.
Research and education Different solutions from personal to national level etc.
Resource Management, planning, monitoring, recording etc.
Social studies Demographic trends and developments analysis etc.
Transport network Planning and management etc.
Military Use IPB, DMP and other battle planning, terrain analysis, resources planning, deployment, management, monitoring, recording etc.
Others Thematic mapping, topographical mapping, site and location information, services, consultancy etc.

Strength of SOB GIS Products

It encompasses following:

  • The most precise and the best quality topographic database in Bangladesh.
  • Seamless database of entire Bangladesh (on process) and can also be served basing on division/district /upazila/meropoliton areas/ area of interest.

Beneficiaries of Output

Actually we assume that SOB product will be very much relevant for the following:

  • Any organisations/firms using GIS data.
  • Any organisations working with map.

Forms of GIS Output for External Use.

  • Data in various formats (e.g. *.shp, *.dxf  and *.gdb).
  • Available both in soft and hard copy.

Governments’ Initiative in Promoting Use of Geospatial Data among Stakeholders and Its Challenges

GIS and spatial analyses are concerned with the absolute and relative location of features (“where”), as well as the properties and attributes of those features (“what”). These two elements are very important aspects of decision making. As a matter of fact, use of geospatial data has become a necessary for the people of the country.

The concept of “Digital Bangladesh” gets fulfilment once we put all our actions into digital form i.e. data creation and sharing digitally. Geospatial data takes us further ahead by putting digital data back into action by analysing and making timely effective and efficient decision. In this regard the initiative taken by the Government are noteworthy. The Digital Innovation Fare, Access To Information (A2I), hosting of web sites by respective government organisations, creation of union level information centre, extensive use of internet, cell phones etc. make aware about the use of data in digital form and share it among themselves.

Present Trends of Geospatial Communities in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh there is a growing application of GIS in land inventories, the population census, urban planning, forestry, petroleum and gas exploration industries, utilities, transportation systems, defence and so on. Table-4 shows few prominent organizations of Bangladesh who can/are use/using GIS facilities in their respective field of applications for their industrial/commercial/personal uses. It is alarmingly observed that the most of the communities are making GIS database at isolation. This will create redundancy, inconsistency and duplicity of data along with very high initial overhead costs.

Table-4: List of Few Geospatial Communities


Security Forces


Autonomous Bodies/Others

Armed forces EC DOE  IWM /CEGIS/ WARPO /Consultancy firms 
Bangladesh Police BBS  DOF  Private mobile companies
RAB BANBEIS  DPHE  Urban planning (RAJUK, DCC, KDC etc.)
NSI DLRS LGED Utilities services (BTCL, PWDB, WASA, TITAS etc.)
DGFI Fire Brigade RHD Real estate companies
GSB SPARRSO Tourism organizations
MOA  Universities & research institutes
Health care organizations
Various NGOs

Challenges in Geospatial Data Sharing and Its Probable Solution

  1. a.   Data Standards.    A user always wants to acquire a product with the assurance that it is going to work properly. Enough effort was missing to make geospatial data “more available” and thus take an initiative to develop the Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS).  As a result from a policy viewpoint, the SDTS standard could not be implemented for government and non-government organizations in order to distribute their data in this format. As we understand that the SDTS provides a neutral vehicle for the exchange of spatial data between different computing platforms. So its importance can’t be overruled.
  2. b.   Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC).     Due to lack in the SDTS among the stakeholders, a more formal establishment of Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) also missing whose mission could be: “to create open and extensible software application programming interfaces for GI Systems and other mainstream technologies.”  No doubt, through its efforts a high level of interoperability would have now been existed between data providers and users. As we understand that these open system specification efforts are particularly important within a web-based environment where users wish to develop applications that incorporate a variety of data that may be held in widely dispersed sites. Such applications may be simple real-time, location-based services or complex decision support systems used by mangers in times of emergency. Unfortunately, a serious user who wants to acquire rather than simply view data soon discovers that the availability of geographic data is contained in a complex environment of financial, institutional, legal, technical, and even security issues!
  3. c.   National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI).    While the OGC has focused on technical issues required to make data interchangeable between systems other efforts have addressed the institutional obstacles relating to GIS data. Any user soon discovers that there is a wealth of data available and that multiple representations of the same themes often exist. These multiple representations vary in accuracy, currency, attributes, price, and scale. Unfortunately, until recently the uninformed user had little assistance in identifying the fitness for use of a particular geospatial data set. Since the problem of duplicative and overlapping data creation efforts was particularly acute within the government there has been a concerted effort to improve the way government agencies operate. Most of these efforts can be encapsulated under the concept of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The NSDI means the technology, policies, standards, and human resources necessary to acquire process, store, distribute, and improve utilization of geospatial data.


  1. d.   Formal Legislation for Geospatial Data Usage.       As NMO, SOB has enough experiences in terms of geospatial data creation. But the administrative boundary data, being of other governmental organisations like DLRS, LGRD etc. a formal legislation is missing which would have encouraged spontaneous data sharing among the SOB during changes of boundary demarcation lines.   Again, from a policy viewpoint, the use of SOB’s data could not be made mandatory for government and non-government organizations in order to carry out any development works’ planning or research activities. SOB recommends a formal legislation to propagate the use of geospatial data of SOB for planning, research works as a cost effective tool.

Impact of GIS Database of SOB in National Development Works

The strength of SOB GIS data is its precision and quality as discussed earlier. Like topographic base map of 1:25,000 scale, the GIS data working behind this also plays a vital role. The basic data contains much information which could not be shown on the map. Again the 3D value of each vertex points adds an additional capability to the stakeholder for analysing data 3 dimensionally. For effective and timely dissemination of information plays a vital role in present era. GIS data can handle this with utmost efficiency. That is why the basic field of applications as narrated in the Table-3 could be a list of limitless fields.


SOB has attained remarkable progress in surveying and mapping system. Through IDMS project this organisation is making a seamless database for entire Bangladesh.  No doubt these new Geo-data bases of entire Bangladesh along with DEMs, Ortho photos will make users planning more realistic and precise indeed. This will be a step forward in IT sector to have such a resourceful database on the part of Survey of Bangladesh- whose benefits could be shared and utilized by all the citizens of Bangladesh. Sharing of information is always encouraged as it reduces data redundancy, duplicity, inaccuracies, cost etc in many folds. All our efforts are to disseminate all these information to our respected stakeholders and other potential users for better planning and implementation. It is already felt that GIS can be used for a vast range of tasks to be done most effectively. So those who understand and feel useful, they can use SOB Geo-data base with its basic data to start building their own GIS economically and accurately and those who already have one, can redesign and updated the same using SOB’s product.

SOB has now turned into a pivotal information provider for application ranging from disaster preparedness, natural resources managements, infrastructure development to urban and rural development, planning to industrial and business geographies. It is expected that all concerned will take full benefit from IDMS project to build better Bangladesh-echoing the Government’s initiative to build “Digital Bangladesh”.


John P. Wilson and A. Stewart Fotheringham(2008); The Handbook of Geographic Information Science, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia.

David J. Cowen (2008);  The Availability of Geographic Data: The Current Technical and Institutional Environment, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia, p 17-19.