Govt liberalises India’s geospatial sector. Here’s why

Updated on Feb 16, 2021 04:20 PM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Monday that the new move will help bolster Indian start-ups, private and public sectors, and research institutes. He hashtagged one such tweet as Freedom2mapIndia, which is exactly what the new policy has the potential to usher in.

Geospatial data represent objects on the surface of the earth, both natural and manmade(AP Photo (Representative Image))
Geospatial data represent objects on the surface of the earth, both natural and manmade(AP Photo (Representative Image))
By | Edited by Ayshee Bhaduri, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Union ministry of science and technology has released a new policy for the geospatial sector in the country, a move aimed at liberalising geospatial services. Private companies can now conduct surveying and mapping without prior approvals and share the data for various everyday applications.

What is geospatial data?

Geospatial data represent objects on the surface of the earth, both natural and manmade. It can be both static, like the location of permanent structures, or dynamic like the ones used by food delivery apps to help users track their orders.

Also Read: Centre deregulates geospatial data and map-making in India

Who controls India’s geospatial data?

Currently, the geospatial sector in India is mostly under the control of the Centre and several central agencies like the Survey of India. The previous geospatial policy requires prior approval for collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping. Private companies need to go through a complicated system of approvals from different government departments as well as the defence and home ministries, making the entire process cumbersome. The old policy looked at geospatial data as important solely for defence purposes and therefore a strict restriction was necessary to protect internal security.

What changes will the new policy bring?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Monday that the new move will help bolster Indian start-ups, private and public sectors, and research institutes. He hashtagged one such tweet as Freedom2mapIndia, which is exactly what the new policy has the potential to usher in. Once the bureaucratic procedures required for mapping geospatial data are done away with, businesses heavily reliant on geospatial data for day to day operations, like e-commerce, will be able to use it for their concerns, which in turn will boost employment.

The government estimates that the new guidelines will boost the geospatial data sector to a value of 1 lakh crore by 2030, create jobs for 2.2 million people, and have a multifold impact on the economy.

Infrastructural development too needs access to accurate geospatial data but if the task of mapping the entire country is left to the defence forces alone it can get overwhelming and marred by delays. The new policy, however, restricts terrestrial mapping and surveying to only Indian entities—both public and private. The data generated also needs to be owned and stored only in India, with foreign entities given permission to license it. This lines up with the vision of ‘Aatmanitbhar Bharat’.

The government reportedly felt an urgent need to incentivise the geospatial sector for Indian companies through increasing investment from private players, hence the move to liberalise a potential industry that for years has been viewed as an integral part of the defence sector.

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