Liberalizing mapping policies: How does free access to geospatial data is beneficial?

Ending a british-era legacy, Modi govt will now allow private companies to produce, acquire & disseminate geospatial data and conduct mapping without prior approval.


The government of India on Monday liberalized geospatial data, allowing private companies and individuals to conduct mapping and share geospatial data for various applications in verticals like e-commerce, transport etc., without government’s prior approval.

At present Google is having the largest market in digital map services termed as Google Maps and is widely used in India. But the latest move by the Modi govt aims to be a contributor in the Atmanirbhar Bharat mission and the vision of a $5 trillion economy.

Few days back, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “Our government has taken a decision that will provide a huge impetus to Digital India. Liberalizing policies governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data is a massive step in our vision for an Aatmanirbhar Bharat.”

Adding to this, the Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan said: “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 AtmaNirbharBharat and a five trillion-dollar economy” at a press briefing on Monday.

The government released guidelines on Monday for acquiring and producing geospatial data and maps. According to the guidelines, geospatial data implies “location information and includes data about natural or man-made, physical or imaginary features whether above the ground or below, boundaries, points of interest, natural phenomena, mobility data, weather patterns, statistical information, etc”.

Geospatial data is used by top apps like Amazon, Flipkart, Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, Uber among others.

The new mapping policy guidelines state, “Individuals, companies, organisations, and government agencies, shall be free to process the acquired geospatial data, build applications and develop solutions in relation to such data and use such data products, applications, solutions, etc by way of selling, distributing, sharing, swapping, disseminating, publishing, deprecating and destructing. Self-certification will be used to convey adherence to these guidelines.”

The new guidelines will be applicable to geospatial data, maps, products, solutions and services offered by government agencies, autonomous bodies, academic and research institutions, private organisations, non governmental organisations and individuals.

There will, however, be a negative list of sensitive information that will require government regulation. That will be shared by the Department of Science and Technology website soon.

In addition, the new rules also allow foreign companies to use such data by acquiring them from Indian companies but only for the purpose of serving their customers in India. They will not be allowed to reuse or resell such map data.

In a series of tweets, PM Modi said, “The reforms will unlock tremendous opportunities for our country’s start-ups, private sector, public sector and research institutions to drive innovations and build scalable solutions. This will also generate employment and accelerate economic growth.”

The mapping policy is also a boost to agrarian sector which contributes to the major chunk of our economy. PM Modi tweeted, ““India’s farmers will also be benefited by leveraging the potential of geo-spatial & remote sensing data,” he tweeted. “Democratizing data will enable the rise of new technologies & platforms that will drive efficiencies in agriculture and allied sectors.”