Current Affairs Analysis : Geospatial Information Regulation Bill
Current Affairs is the key for the IAS Preparation and it is well established after the IAS Prelims Exam. But as we said earlier also, Its the Current Affairs background and Analysis which help in the IAS Main Exam and it is the imperative for the IAS Prepration. In recent years, the nature of questions asked in UPSC IAS Mains as well as Prelims Exam has changed significantly. Please read this important current affairs analysis of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill.
In recent years, the nature of questions asked in UPSC Mains as well as Prelims has changed significantly. It’s not enough to just know the features of a policy or bill or act but to have a full analytical understanding of it. In addition, there are several topics in current affairs that can be relevant for more than one study area. For instance, the below mentioned Draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill which has been in news lately is a topic that is relevant for GS Polity, GS Internal Security and GS Geography i.e. GS I Paper, GS II Paper as well as GS III Paper. Here is a complete analysis of the said Draft Bill.
Ministry of Home Affairs recently released the Draft “Geospatial Information and Regulation Bill”. This Bill has come under a lot of fire from all stake holders within the digital space – service providers, end consumers included, internet activists and academicians. It’s important to understand the features of the bill in order to grasp its implication and why it has come under so much criticism.
What does Geospatial Information mean?
It means geospatial image or data taken from space, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicle, balloon, satellite. Also includes digital data depicting man made and physical features. Maps, surveys, charts tagged with a coordinate system are also a part of the definition. For example, Google Map is an example of Geospatial Data.
What does the Bill intend to “Regulate”?
• The Bill intends to regulate Geospatial information related to India i.e. acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of Geospatial Information will be regulated by this bill in order to safeguard security, sovereignty and integrity of India.
• Now if a person or company wishes to acquire, disseminate, and use geo-spatial information of India it would need a license from the Security Vetting Authority to be established under this Bill.
• The bill will have retrospective affect as well. Those companies already in possession of such data will have to acquire the said license within a year of the enactment of the Act.
• It also prohibits wrongful depiction of the Indian Map and boundaries through online or physical mediums
• This act also regulates acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of Geospatial Information of India outside India as well.
• Violation of the various clauses of this law may result in heavy penalty ranging from 10lakh to 100 crores and/or imprisonment up to 7 years
Authorities to be established under the Act
1. Apex Committee: to oversee the implementation of this act, issue guidelines for licensing, prescribe fees and charges.
2. Security Vetting Authority: Will carry out the security vetting of the Geo Spatial Information of India in accordance with guidelines from the Apex Committee. It will also issue, suspend, revoke licenses.
3. Enforcement Agency: Monitoring and surveillance
4. Appellate Authority: Can be appealed to, in order to challenge decision of the Enforcement Agency
Need of Such Bill
1. Companies like Google failed to mask military locations in their geospatial apps risking India’s security
2. Intelligence agencies say that terrorist in Pathankot Attack and 26/11 Mumbai attack all made use of such readily available geospatial information.
3. Also, in recent past some international agencies have depicted parts of Kashmir and Arunachal as territories of Pakistan and China respectively in spite of vociferous objection from India.
1. The bill, though well intentioned, if implemented in its current form will seriously impede development in various technology sectors
2. Several location app based companies such as Ola and Uber cab services will have to pay hefty licensing fee to offer their product, making the cost higher for the end user.
3. There is not much clarity on who all will come under the ambit of this law. A teenager sharing his location with friends on Whatsapp, will he need a license too?
4. It may discourage the Start Up culture that has taken India by storm. Most of these new ventures are based on location and geospatial data. Bigger companies like Google and Ola can pay the hefty fees but it may act as an entry barrier for younger firms.
5. Geospatial data is very dynamic and keeps changing almost on a daily basis. A new restaurant, ATM, new road pops very frequently. According to the act permission will be required to incorporate every such small change. This will prove to be massive burden for the implementing agencies.
6. Many government schemes such as Smart Cities, AMRUT, Digital India etc. require high definition geospatial data for implementation to be used by private sector stakeholders. This act will add another red tape to the process and delay these schemes.
7. The Bill also goes against the spirit of the National Geospatial Policy 2016 recently uploaded by Department of Science and Technology which in fact encourages the use of Geospatial Data Products, Services and Solutions (GDPSS) by government departments, research institutes, businesses and academicians.
1. Bill in its current form may do more harm than good.
2. At the stage when the world is speeding on the digital highway, such additional red tape can drag Indian Companies especially Start Ups behind
3. Bill can be brought in with a different form i.e. instead of licensing, companies using geospatial information can register with the government and there can be random audits to monitor whether rules are being followed.
4. Licensing Fee as a feature will add to the cost of start ups and in turn end cost for the customer will rise. Hence charging hefty licensing fee should be reconsidered.