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FAQ: What Is the New Change in India’s Mapmaking Policy?

Indian companies will now be able to develop apps like Google Maps, after gaining access to geospatial data.

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The Ministry of Science and Technology on Monday, 15 February, announced new guidelines for the geospatial sector in the country, a move that will deregulate all existing rules governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data.

This move will allow Indian companies to produce and share geospatial data, including maps without any prior approvals, licences and security clearances, informed Department of Science and Technology Secretary Ashutosh Sharma.

Here's everything you need to know about the government's new policy:

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What is geospatial data?

It is a collection of data, which describes all objects present on Earth’s surface. These objects include roads, streets, localities, rail lines, public spaces, amenities, water bodies, etc. Anything present on the planet’s surface can be termed as geospatial data.

Who uses geospatial data?

Several e-Commerce companies, including Amazon, Swiggy and Zomato, require very specific details of a locality. These companies seek geospatial data for faster tracking and enriched customer service. Weather companies and agricultural sectors also use this data.

What is the new change?

Earlier, companies and individuals had to seek licenses and approvals from the Indian government to get hold of geospatial information. There were strict restrictions imposed on collection, sharing, storage, and use of the data.

The government had imposed such restrictions citing internal and external security concerns. However, with the new change in policy, anyone will be able to access the data for free.

“The country’s corporations and innovators are no longer subject to restrictions nor do they require prior approvals before they collect, generate, prepare, disseminate, store, publish, update digital geospatial data and maps,” read a statement by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Who will benefit from this move?

This move will help the farmers to monitor the health of crops, estimate yield from a given field and maximize crop production.

Indian companies will now be able to develop apps like Google Maps and Navigator, after gaining access to the data.

The liberalisation of these policies is a “massive step in the government’s vision for an Atmanirbhar Bharat”, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a series of tweets on Monday.

“The reforms will unlock tremendous opportunities for our country’s startups, private sector, public sector and research institutions to drive innovations and build scalable solutions. This will also generate employment and accelerate economic growth,” PM Modi tweeted.

Will this move affect the national security of India?

This move will not hamper the country’s national security as only the data that is readily available globally but was restricted to India will be freely available.

“What is readily available globally does not need to be restricted in India, and therefore, geospatial data that used to be restricted will now be freely available in India,” Ministry of Science & Technology’s press release said.

Moreover, all the registered companies and individuals will have to self attest and adhere to the guidelines laid out by the Indian government, failing which they will be liable for any misuse of the geospatial data.

“There will also be a negative list of sensitive attributes that would require regulation before anyone can acquire and/or use such attribute data,” the statement further said.

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