Govt liberalises restrictions on geospatial data for map-making

Announcing a sweeping change in India’s mapping policy, the Centre on Monday liberalised regulations on geospatial data, making it freely available in the country for innovation and IT companies.

The change is made specifically for Indian companies through updating the current guidelines pertaining to developing map technologies.

According to an official statement, the government realised that the existing regime imposed significant restrictions on the mapping industry, from creation to dissemination of maps, requiring Indian companies to seek licences and follow a cumbersome system of pre-approvals and permissions. Compliance with these regulatory restrictions has subjected startups in India to red tape, hindering Indian innovation in map technologies for decades, it said.

The Union Science and Technology Ministry, while announcing the new guidelines, said that it will greatly enhance the preparedness of the country for emergency response.

“With the new guidelines, individuals, companies, organisations, and government agencies shall be free to process the acquired geospatial data, build applications, and develop solutions in relation to such data and use such data products, applications, and solutions by way of selling, distributing, sharing, swapping, disseminating, publishing, ….,” it said.

However, self-certification will be used to convey adherence to these guidelines, it added.

Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the move will help drive efficiencies in agriculture and emergency-response capabilities while also facilitating rise of new-age industries.

“The availability of comprehensive, highly accurate, granular, and constantly updated representation of geospatial data will significantly benefit diverse sectors of the economy and will significantly boost innovation in the country and greatly enhance the preparedness of the country for emergency response,” he added.

The ministry also stated that the policy change is aligned to the vision of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” to achieve a $5 trillion economy.

Science and Technology Secretary, Professor Ashutosh Sharma, said that increased participation of the private sector will augment the growth of new technologies, platforms and application of geospatial data contributing to the country’s progress.

However, the government has put in place a few new rules to function. Sharma said that there is restriction on revealing the attributes or features of sensitive areas even though there would be none on surveying the area itself.

“The data is not for access, but only for surveying,” he added.

Similarly, terrestrial mapping and surveying will be allowed only by Indian entities. The data generated from such processes can be owned only by Indians. Foreign players can licence the information but not own it.