In a move that could be critical for location-based services such as e-commerce, logistics and urban transport, the government on Monday freed public and private firms from the need to seek approval, security clearance, or licence for the collection, generation, storage and publication of geospatial data.

There were several restrictions around using geospatial data by agencies other than a few government departments.

The government estimated the domestic geospatial market at ₹1-lakh crore in 2020 with an employment potential of nearly 22 lakh people.

This will liberalise the mapping industry and democratise existing datasets, a crucial requirement for achieving India’s vision to become a $5-trillion economy, said an official statement.

“What is readily available globally, should not be regulated,” said Department of Science and Technology Secretary Ashutosh Sharma. “There will not be any restriction on areas for mapping and surveying. Firms do not need approval for collecting geospatial data. They just need to self-certify,” he said.

Addressing a press conference, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said that in spite of being a government institution, even the Survey of India has to seek permission from the Ministries of Defence and Home, the Intelligence Bureau and others to carry out activities it was supposed to do on a regular basis. Such approvals often take several months to come, severely affecting the productivity of the institution.

Now, there is a complete deregulation with no approvals, security clearances or licences needed for acquisition and production of geospatial data for both public and private sectors. However, only Indian entities can own and store geospatial data finer than 1-metre horizontally and 3-metre vertically. Foreign entities, however, can licence such fine data, but not own them.

“This is very similar to the 1991 moment for the Indian geospatial industry,” said Rohan Verma, CEO of MapmyIndia.