What is India's New Mapping Policy?
On 15 February 2021, the Government of India announced changes to the country's mapping policy by liberalising regulations on geospatial data and maps. It is in line with India's vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and a 5 trillion-dollar economy.
The existing regime imposed significant restrictions on the Indian mapping industry-- from creation to dissemination of maps, requiring the Indian mapping companies to go through a cumbersome system of pre-approvals and permissions to get licences.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said, "By liberalizing the geo-spatial guidelines, the government has taken a historic decision that will lead to a 1 lakh crore Rupees geo-spatial economy. It will enable science to become a public movement and also to deliver a New India to the people of the country."
"The next generation of technologies will use hyper-resolution maps. 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. The availability of data and modern mapping technologies to Indian companies is also crucial for achieving the vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and a five trillion-dollar economy," he added.
The Minister underscored, "With the advent of publicly available geospatial services, a lot of Geospatial Data that used to be in the restricted zone are freely and commonly available now and some of the policies/guidelines that used to regulate such information have been rendered obsolete and redundant."
He further stated, "All geospatial data produced using public funds, except classified geospatial data collected by security/law enforcement agencies, will be made accessible for scientific, economic and developmental purposes to all Indian Entities and without any restrictions on their use. Government agencies and others need to collaborate and work towards open linked geospatial data. Stakeholders benefitted will include practically every segment of society, from industry to academia to government departments."
Need for maps and accurate geospatial data
With the increased use of geospatial data by businesses such as app-based delivery companies, telecom and banking; there's a need for a more comprehensive, accurate, granular and constantly updated representation of the geospatial data.
The said data is also crucial for national infrastructure projects (such as linkages of rivers, creation of industrial corridors and deployment of smart power systems) and emerging vibrant technologies (such as Digital India, Smart Cities, eCommerce, autonomous drones, delivery, logistics and urban transport). However, the government cannot alone map the entire country quickly and with high accuracy, thereby liberalizing the policy.
How this move will help Indian entities?
The Minister declared, "What is readily available globally does not need to be regulated. For Indian entities, there would be complete deregulation with no prior approvals, security clearances, licenses, etc. for acquisition and production of geospatial data and geospatial data services including maps."
Under the existing regime, it is difficult for the Indian entities to get access to the geospatial data. However, with this announcement, the Indian entities will be allowed to use this data and build on it without any prior approvals before they collect, generate, prepare, disseminate, store, publish, update digital Geospatial Data and Maps within the territory of India.
The policy will enable Indian innovators to create substantial advances in mapping ultimately making our lives easier, and empowering small businesses.
The Government of India also looks forward to making India an emerging mapping power, creating next-generation indigenous maps of India and taking these new technologies to the rest of the world.