INDIA: The Ministry of Science and Technology has released new guidelines for the geospatial sector in India on Monday. The recent guidelines deregulate the present protocol and liberalises the sector to a more competitive field.
Geospatial data and current policy on geospatial data
Geospatial data is the data on objects, events, or phenomena that have a location on the surface of the earth. The location may be static like the location of an earthquake event, a road, malnutrition among children, or dynamic like a pedestrian or moving vehicle, the spread of an infectious disease.
Geospatial data usually involves information of public interest such as roads, rail lines, localities, water bodies, and public amenities. With the growth of food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce like Amazon, or weather apps, there has been a swell in the use of geospatial data in daily life.
The current policy on geospatial data demands strict restrictions on the collection, use, sale, dissemination of data, and mapping. The policy had not been renewed in decades and has been driven by internal as well as external security concerns. The Indian government has a major hand in the sector.
Private companies need to run permissions from different government departments (depending on the kind of data to be created) as well as the defense and home ministries, to be able to collect, create or disseminate geospatial data. Initially concerned solely with security, geospatial data collection was the prerogative of the defense forces and the government.
The deregulation eliminates red-tapism of the previous policies and the requirement of permissions as well as scrutiny, even for security purposes. The new guidelines place a great deal of trust in Indian entities as the Indian companies now can self-attest, abiding by the government norms without actually having to be monitored by a government agency.
In the past 15 years, the geospatial sector has witnessed a shift in the way it is prioritized – the data has now become vital for the government in planning for infrastructure, social development, natural calamities as well as the economy, with sectors such as agriculture, environment protection, water, power, transportation, communication, health (tracking of diseases, patients, hospitals, etc) majorly relying on this data.
The idea of liberalizing the system is that the government will ensure more players in the field, increasing the competitiveness of Indian companies in the global market, and providing more accurate data to both, the government to formulate plans and administer, but also for individual Indians.
Startups and businesses will be able to use this data in setting up their concerns, especially in the sector of e-commerce or geospatial-based apps. This will give a boost to employment in these sectors. Indian companies will be able to develop indigenous apps, for instance, an Indian version of google maps. There is also likely to be an increase in public-private partnerships, investment by companies, and a push in the export of data to foreign companies and countries, which in turn will boost the economy.