Geospatial data policy eases business of map making

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on February 19, 2021

The government’s decision to liberalise its geospatial data policy earlier this week has been welcomed by academics and entrepreneurs alike as this would bring immense value to general public, help enterprises develop innovative products and make governance more transparent and hassle-free.

“Surveying and mapping is so critical to decision-making, planning, infrastructure, logistics and to services with 80 per cent of all data having some geospatial component. Hence it is important to have ease of doing business in surveying and mapping,” said Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Surveying and mapping has been freed of all pre-approvals as also vetting of data. Data has been democratised with whatever produced using taxpayer money in public domain, except those required for security purposes and collected by security agencies. It is also for empowering both public sector private sector in the country, Sharma said.

Clearing grey areas

Sanjiv Sanyal, Principal Economic Adviser in the Finance Ministry, said map making was a state monopoly under the British rule as it suited their purpose of extraction and control of India. Subsequently, cartography became a free-wheeling thing in other parts of the world, while India continued to have this colonial approach to cartography. Though technology allowed the use of Goole Earth and satellite pictures quite possible, legally it remained a grey area, Sanyal said. “This is what the government has now changed,” he said.

K VijayaRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the government, said government agencies collect so much of data. “This data is useless, unless it is converted into information and this information into knowledge and this knowledge is used for understanding and decision-making,” he said.

Putting data to use

But this collected data is meaningless unless it is put to use rapidly and in the context of space and time. The idea behind the reforms in this sector is actually to make this possible.

Rajkumar Khatri, Additional Chief Secretary to the government of Karnataka who is in charge of Labour Department, said the State is proposing to use the realtime geospatial data on construction activities to monitor labour cess made to Construction Labourer’s Welfare Fund. He said he was confident that the State would be able to mop up an additional ₹100 crore a month to the fund by doing this.

Lalitesh Katragadda, former Google Country Manager known for developing Google Map Maker group map-making tool that allow people map the world around them, said marking out accurate land boundaries around every piece of land and giving necessary policy infrastructure to trade land freely and mapmakers marking GPS boundaries around the land, would help farmers and others to mortgage their land at much cheaper rates to raise necessary funds. Currently they are all paying much higher interest rates for no fault of theirs, he said.

Digital address

Welcoming the rule change, Rohan Verma, CEO of MapmyIndia, said his firm has been working on this area for a quarter of century and has developed a number of geospatial products which can now be rolled out. One of them, he said, is eLOC, which is capable of any dwelling in the country a digital address that contains six alphanumerical characters. “A person doesn’t need to write his full address, these six characters are good enough for reaching anything at his or her doorsteps, whether they live in a palace or a hut,” Verma said.

Published on February 19, 2021

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