For any country, maps and accurate geospatial data are crucial for national infrastructure projects including river linkage, development of industrial corridors, deployment of smart power systems and more. Maps with greater precision, depth and resolution provide essential support to Digital India, Smart Cities, eCommerce, autonomous drones, delivery, logistics and urban transport. The applications with high-precision geospatial data help small businesses, farmers, construction companies, mining and local enterprises etc. in formulating a better plan for an economically sustainable future.
Our government has taken a decision that will provide a huge impetus to Digital India. Liberalising policies governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data is a massive step in our vision for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. #mapmakingsimplified https://t.co/ssbPhAeSp1— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 15, 2021
The issue with the present mapping system in India
Any Indian company that want to create or disseminate maps need to get the proper license and follow a cumbersome system of pre-approvals and permissions. Compliance with these regulatory restrictions has subjected startups in India to unnecessary red tape, hindering Indian innovation in map technologies for decades.
Radical liberalisation of mapping policy
To ensure Indian companies have unhindered access to the geospatial data, the government has radically liberalised the mapping policy. The government believes that what is readily available globally should not be restricted in India. Thus, as per the new policy, the geospatial data will be freely available for Indian companies. The corporations and innovators will not be subject to restrictions not do they will require prior approvals before collecting, generating, preparing, disseminating, storing, publishing, updating digital Geospatial Data and Maps within the territory of India.
In a series of tweets, PM Modi said, “Our government has taken a decision that will provide a huge impetus to Digital India. Liberalising policies governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data is a massive step in our vision for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”
The reforms will unlock tremendous opportunities for our country’s start-ups, private sector, public sector and research institutions to drive innovations and build scalable solutions. This will also generate employment and accelerate economic growth. #Freedom2MapIndia pic.twitter.com/OoN1rDTwoW— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 15, 2021
The government will trust the startups and mapping innovators to self-certify and apply sound judgement. They will be relied upon to demonstrate adherence to guidelines. The government will take measures to promote the development of Indian geospatial innovations that take advantage of the latest map-making technologies. The new policy will enable Indian innovators to create substantial advances in mapping, ultimately making our lives easier and empowering small businesses.
‘Indian Startups will revolutionise mapping’
The changes in mapping policy are being seen as a welcoming step by the corporate world. Product Nation, a technology think tank said that the Indian Startups will revolutionise mapping and it will create thousands of jobs. It added, “Next-generation hyper resolution maps will happen. $Billions value unlocked, thousands of jobs.”
iSPIRT celebrates radical mapping reform @PMOIndia. All restrictions on mapping gone!— ProductNation/iSPIRT (@Product_nation) February 15, 2021
Indian Startups will revolutionise mapping. Next generation hyper resolution maps will happen. $Billions value unlocked, thousands of jobs. #Maps3_0!#Freedom2MapIndia#MapMakingSimplified
Sanjeev Sanyal, writer and collector of old maps said that this is the first time since Rennel and the East India Company, this sector is open to private innovation.
The government has announced the full liberalization of the cartography and geo-spatial mapping sector. For the first time since Rennel and the East India Company, this sector is open to private innovation. https://t.co/yfBVBwDt6v— Sanjeev Sanyal (@sanjeevsanyal) February 15, 2021
The negative list of sensitive attributes
There are some speculations over security concerns with such liberalisation of the mapping system. The government has already considered the sensitivity of selected attributes. As per the guidelines [PDF], there will be a restriction on mapping the restricted regions designated by the Ministry/Department concerned.
This list will contact negative attributes that would require regulation before anyone can acquire or use such attribute data. Department of Science and Technology will publish the negative list of sensitive attributes on its website with stipulated regulations after consultation with departments concerned. No person or entity on the negative list can be marked on the maps as per the regulations.
Made-in-India alternative of Google Maps
Recently, ISRO and MapmyIndia joined hands to build an alternative to Google maps with ‘make in India’ mapping portal and geospatial services. As per reports, ISRO with MMI will develop a fully indigenous, made-in-India mapping portal and geospatial services. ISRO in a statement said: “The collaboration will enable them to jointly identify and build holistic geospatial solutions utilising the earth observation datasets, “NavIC”, Web Services and APIs (application programming interface) available in MapmyIndia, “Bhuvan”, “VEDAS” and “MOSDAC” geoportals.” Through the combined partnership with ISRO, MapmyIndia’s end-user maps, apps and services will now integrate with ISRO’s huge catalogue of satellite imagery and earth observation data.