Comments on Will the Real Hyderabad Please Stand Up?

A friend of ours, Ojas Shetty, wrote in to us with some very interesting comments and questions on our recent post, “Will the Real Hyderabad Please Stand Up?” Here’s what he said:

“The maps show discrepancies across civic, administrative and electoral boundaries. If there has to be standardized/clean spatial data who/where would it come from? Since these boundaries are administrative and electoral, should they be centrally verified or verified by state government agencies? Just wondering how to think about this and who’s to be held responsible for discrepancies.

Or maybe maps aren’t supposed to represent real spaces at all. But to create virtual spaces for us to re arrange reality within. I’m probably thinking about this entirely wrongly.”

There are two major strands in his response and it is important to pay careful attention to both of them. Firstly, who is to be held accountable for producing clean and meaningful data across agencies? (If that is to be done) Secondly, a more fundamental question on the value of maps and the connection between maps and reality.

We thought we’ll address the more fundamental question first, with an illustration(!):
(please click on the images to view them more clearly)Maps are instruments of power and control..The power of maps can be harnessed by the people, if there is transparency and accountability in the process of map-making.

The other strand of the comment, “where will streamlined data come from? and who should be held accountable for discrepancies in data?” is a complicated question that we are, ourselves, attempting to open up. The point is not to call for a complete centralization of all data, in-so-far as generating data is concerned, i.e. the data will continue to be produced by different agencies. But we must at least alter the status quo where the data is being generated in disconnected silos. However, such a move will only become possible if the different government agencies recognize the need for cleaning up their data and agree to create a common platform where issues of data discrepancies can be resolved. That should be the first step, along with a more careful elaboration of the problem and its manifestations in different contexts. Beyond that, we can only speculate about possible solutions at this point.

This problem is one of our major concerns so watch this space for further posts and discussions on this theme.

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