Deregulating Geospatial Data – UPSC GS3

Ministry of Science and Technology deregulated the geo-spatial data and map-making in India.
What is the present policy on geospatial data?
  • Till recently, the government had a near-monopoly regarding the collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping. This was because of concerns over internal as well as external security threats.
  • Only government-run agencies such as the Survey of India, Defence and Home Ministries were allowed to use geospatial data.
  • Whereas, the private companies needed approval from different departments of the government as well as the defence and Home Ministries. Then only, they were able to collect, create or disseminate geospatial data.
  • The lack of private participation led to the underdevelopment of the Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.
  • The Kargil war highlighted the dependence on foreign data and the need for indigenous sources of data. Only, after the Kargil war, the government heavily invested in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping.
Why has the government deregulated geospatial data?
The government has deregulated the geo-spatial data to achieve the following objectives:
  • It will help in the timely completion of the project without delay. Over-regulation in the use of geo-spatial data has led to red-tapism. It delayed the start of projects for both private and government agencies.
    • The Deregulation now allows the Indian companies to self-attest by confirming the government guidelines. This eliminates the need for monitoring by a government agency, thereby improving ease of doing business.
  • It will help to improve the status of data deficiency in the country. Lack of appropriate data impedes planning for infrastructure, development and businesses.
    • Also, Mapping of a country as large and diverse as India with high accuracy will take decades if it is done only by government agencies.
    • Hence, incentivizing the Indian companies in the geospatial sector and increasing investment from private players in the sector will establish India as a data sufficient country.
  • The application of geospatial data has become widespread. It is no more confined to security purpose alone.
    • An increasing number of sectors such as agriculture, environment protection, power, water, transportation, communication, health (tracking of diseases, patients, hospitals etc.) currently rely on this data.
    • Geospatial data is now crucial for the government in planning for infrastructure development, social development, natural calamities etc.
  • It is also in line with the global consensus for open access to geospatial data. Many countries have made their geo-spatial data freely available. The new guidelines will ensure open access, except for sensitive defence or security-related data.
What impact is this expected to have?
  • It result in more accurate data available to both the government and private agencies for planning.
  • It will promote the setting up of new Startups and businesses especially in the sector of e-commerce or geospatial based apps. This will increase employment in these sectors.
  • It also promotes the building of indigenous apps. For example, an Indian version of Google Maps.
  • With data collection companies working with the Indian government on various sectoral projects it is also likely to increase in public-private partnerships.
  • It will also boost the economy by attracting investments in the geospatial sector by companies and by an increase in export of data to foreign companies and countries.
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