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India Opens Access To Geospatial Data And Services

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 17, Feb 2021, 18:09 pm IST | UPDATED: 21, Feb 2021, 18:08 pm IST

India Opens Access To Geospatial Data And Services

In a major change in India's mapping policy, the Centre on Monday opened access to its geospatial data and services, including maps, for all Indian entities. So far, mapping has remained a government preserve, handled by the Central government's Survey of India, but with the recent changes, Indian entities can take part in the process and benefit from it.

What's the sweeping change?

Geospatial data (also known as “spatial data”)  includes location information 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, and other statistical information. Now, the move is said to release a lot of data that is currently restricted and not available for free.

What's the data so crucial?

There are several ways to use and represent geospatial data. Most commonly, it’s used within a GIS (Geographic Information System) to read about spatial relationships and to create maps describing these relationships. A GIS can also help you regulate, customize, and analyze geospatial data. The ministry of science and technology issued guidelines for acquiring and producing geospatial data and geospatial data services, including maps. “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,” the guidelines state.

Some examples of geospatial data include vectors and attributes where points, lines, polygons, and other descriptive information about any location can be known through them. Other examples include Point Clouds which is collected by LiDAR systems. It is used to create 3D models of areas and localities. 

Raster and Satellite Imagery is also another example that helps in getting a bird's eye view of what the Earth looks like via high-resolution imagery.

Why the change?

In the existing regime, significant restrictions were imposed on the mapping industry including the creation of the dissemination of maps where Indian companies had to seek licenses and follow a cumbersome system of pre-approvals and permissions. As a result of stricter compliance with the regulations, startups in India faced difficulties related to red tape hindering Indian innovation in map technologies for decades.

How it will benefit companies?

Individuals, companies, organizations, 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, and solutions by way of selling, distributing, sharing, swapping, disseminating, publishing, deprecating and destructing, the guidelines state. However, self-certification will be used to convey adherence to these guidelines.

Since India relies heavily on foreign resources for mapping technologies and services, liberalisation of the mapping industry and democratization of existing datasets will spur domestic innovation and enable Indian companies to compete in the global mapping ecosystem by leveraging modern geospatial technologies. Democratizing data will enable the rise of new technologies and platforms that will drive efficiencies in agriculture and allied sectors.

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