Home Governance India Eases Restrictions on the Collection, Storage, and Sharing of Geospatial Data

India Eases Restrictions on the Collection, Storage, and Sharing of Geospatial Data

In a bid to help local startups and businesses become self-reliant through the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme, India has eased restrictions on its mapping policy. PM Modi calls it a “massive step.”

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geo-spatial data in India

In 2018, tech giant Google had asked permission from the Indian Government for collecting data for its mapping application – Google Street View. This application provides Google users across the globe a 360⁰ view of any place of their liking from their lounging chair. However, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, the then union minister of state, informed Google that “the government has not agreed to the proposal.” Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, had rejected the proposal based on an argument that it did not suffice the country’s mapping policy.

Fast forward to 2021: The Government of India (GoI) – aligning to its “Atmanirbhar Bharat” and “Vocal for Local” (self-reliance) campaigns – has decided to ease the mapping policy. The government will allow local startups and businesses to collect, generate, store, publish and update geospatial data of the country but within its territorial boundaries.

Updated Mapping Policy

As per the new guidelines issued by the GoI, any Indian company or business will no longer be required to apply for additional licenses or permissions from the government to gain access into the country’s geospatial data, which includes maps from the Survey of India (SoI), terrestrial mobile mapping survey, street view survey, and surveying of Indian territorial waters. Additionally, the companies applying for such data will be given access to Indian ground stations and augmentation services for real-time positioning (also known as CORS – Continuously Operating Reference Stations).

GoI added, “The availability of data and modern mapping technologies is crucial for achieving India’s five trillion-dollar GDP vision. India presently relies on foreign resources for mapping technologies and services. Liberalization of the mapping industry and democratization of the existing data sets will spur domestic innovation and enable Indian companies to compete in the global mapping ecosystem.”

Echoing the same notion, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a series of tweets, described this as a “massive step” towards Digital India.

Amid the current stir and protests against the three farm laws in the country, PM Modi tweeted that Indian farmers will also benefit from this.

The flip side of the new mapping guidelines is still the fact that no foreign company or foreign-owned or controlled Indian company can have this privilege. However, foreign entities can license the digital maps and/or geospatial data from Indian entities only to serve their customers in India. And to keep a strict vigil, the geospatial data shared with any foreign entity will only happen through an API. This will ensure that the data belonging to Indian counterparts stays on local servers and helps maintain data localization.

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