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  • Raghav Sand

Maps in India: A Long-awaited Change, Finally.

Maps are an integral part of everyday life. Navigation and e-commerce have vastly helped in the adoption of satellite-based maps. In the last millennium, the use of maps was restricted to classrooms and very few individuals kept a folded version while travelling new places to save time. Maps have been helpful in planning trips and locating both natural and man-made resources and infrastructure, respectively. The widespread adoption of smartphones has multiplied the number of people who use maps daily. Whether it is taking help with directions or tracking a package from your favourite food delivery app, the ease of use is remarkable.

Primarily we use maps for taking directions while going to a new place or searching for an alternate route in case of a disruption on our regular route. There are many other uses which may not be visible to everyone. Geospatial data (also known as “spatial data”) is used to describe data that represents features or objects on the Earth’s surface. Whether it’s man-made or natural, if it has to do with a specific location on the globe, it’s geospatial.

New Liberalised Geospatial Policy in India

Department of Science and Technology (DST), Ministry of Science of Technology, Government of India, has opened access to its geospatial data and services, including maps, for all Indian entities. In its press release it noted, “what is readily available globally does not need to be regulated.” Previously restricted and paid data will now be available free-of-cost. This announcement is a landmark alteration to the country’s mapping policy; earlier individuals and companies were required to seek approval for use of mapping data under the Geospatial Information Regulation Act, 2016.

There has been immense progress over the years in technology for capture of geospatial data through ground-based survey techniques, photogrammetry using manned/unmanned aerial vehicles, terrestrial vehicle mounted Mobile Mapping System, LIDAR, RADAR Interferometry, satellite-based remote sensing, mobile phone sensors and other techniques. Government of India expects that constantly updated 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.

India presently relies heavily on foreign resources for mapping technologies and services. Liberalisation of the mapping industry will spur domestic innovation and enable Indian companies to compete in the global mapping ecosystem by leveraging modern geospatial technologies. India will soon launch an ambitious ‘Deep Ocean Mission’ that envisages exploration of minerals, energy and marine diversity of the underwater world, a vast part of which still remains unexplored.

The new guidelines on acquiring and producing geospatial data services are issued in supersession of anything to the contrary on the subject issued from time to time by DST, Ministry of Defense (MoD) and/or any other Department of Government of India vide their various official memoranda and guidelines. The Guidelines issued by DST on Geospatial Data and Maps would be the single point reference on the subject.

Indian Entities, whether in Government or outside, will be free to acquire, collect, generate, prepare, disseminate, store, share, publish, distribute, update, digitize and/or create Geospatial Data, including Maps, of any spatial accuracy within the territory of India including underwater within its territorial waters by using any Geospatial Technology.

Foreign companies and foreign owned or controlled Indian companies can license from Indian Entities digital Maps/Geospatial Data of spatial accuracy/value finer than the threshold value only for the purpose of serving their customers in India. Access to such Maps/Geospatial Data shall only be made available through Application Programming Interface (APIs) that do not allow Maps/Geospatial Data to pass through Licensee Company or its servers.

Re-use or resale of such map data by licensees shall be prohibited. The new regulations put the onus of compliance on the individuals or companies producing Geospatial Data and information.

ISRO and MapmyIndia Join Hands

Indian Space Research Organisation and MapmyIndia announced their collaboration for providing home-grown mapping portal and geospatial services. The coming together of these two organisations will help them generate synergy by combing their expertise.

“You don’t need Goo*le Maps/Earth any longer”, Mr. Rohan Verma, CEO and Executive Director, said in the headline in an article on LinkedIn. He added, “Foreign mapping solutions come with a lot of hidden costs. For e.g., foreign search engines and companies claim to offer “free” maps, but in reality, they make money by targeting the same users with advertising based on invading user privacy and auctioning those users’ private location and movement data. This should be very alarming to all citizens. On the other hand, MapmyIndia has an ethical point of view against advertising led business models of such companies, and hence, does not have an advertising business model. By using MapmyIndia maps and applications instead of the foreign map apps, users can better protect their privacy.”

“MapmyIndia, being a responsible, local, Indian company, ensures that its maps reflect the true sovereignty of the country, depicting India’ s borders as per Government of India, and hosts its maps in India,” he said.

MapmyIndias maps cover all 7.5 lakh villages, 7500+ cities at street and building-level, connected by all 63 lakh kilometres of road network pan India and within cities, in total providing maps for an unparalleled 3+ crore places across India.

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