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India's revised policy and guidelines on sharing Geospatial Data and Services
By Rizwan Choudhury
In a view to ease and modernise the economy the Department of Science and Technology(DST) of Government of India on15th February 2021 issued revised set of guidelines for acquiring and producing Geospatial Data and Services including Maps offered by government agencies, private agencies and individuals. The new guidelines put emphasis on how location information is an essential component of the modern digital ecosystem and is critical for unlocking economic, social, and environmental opportunities for the country's long-term growth and development and crucial to the success of modern industries that provide location-based services like e-Commerce, distribution and logistics, and urban transportation. It has put light on the various forms of Data that are natural or man made like mobile mapping systems, remote sensing, LIDAR and Radar.
The policies which were strictly regulated issued by the Survey of India, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Defence have been eased under this new regulation. It is of the view that the accessibility and easy availability of the comprehensive and highly granular data is aimed at boosting innovation, self dependence in the light of Atmanitbhar Bharat and preparedness during emergency response situations.
The new policies highlight some key points:
Liberalising of the mapping industry and democratisation of existing data sets to promote domestic innovation and enable Indian companies to compete in the global mapping ecosystem by using these data.
Making the data and mapping technology easily available to Indian companies to aid in development and vision for the five trillion-dollar economy.
Specific access to bathymetric geospatial data for emphasis on the growth of Blue economy to promote development in fisheries, deep sea mining, exploration of minerals and energy, offshore gas and oil and port led development under the Sagarmala project of GOI.
The new policies have classified data under various entities :
Positional data which includes longitudinal and latitude information, elevation etc. in the Republic of India
Attributes data which are associated with any positional data
Positional data with out without attributes in the form of images, vectors or in any digital or non digital form
Data from maps which includes symbolic representation on real world objects on a given scale published in paper or web map services
Data from modern geospatial technologies like Unmanned Aerial vehicle photography like drones, Radar, LIDAR, Remote sensing, AI based mapping etc
Indian entity that comprises of any Indian citizen, government entities, societies registered under applicable statutes, statutory bodies, autonomous institutions of the GOI, any Indian company or Indian LLP owned or regulated by Indian Citizen (as defined in the Explanation to Rule 23 of the Foreign Exchange Management (Non-Debt Instrument) Rules, 2019).
The Guidelines categorise Geospatial Data based on certain threshold values, such as Spatial accuracy on-site is one metre for horizontal or planimetry and three metres for vertical or elevation. A 1 milli-gal gravity anomaly Bathymetric data in territorial waters has a vertical accuracy of 10 metres up to 500 metres from the shoreline and 100 metres beyond that.One of the most important provisions of the Guidelines is that no prior approval, licence, clearance, or other restriction is required for the collection, generation, preparation, storage, dissemination, publication, updating, and/or digitization of Geospatial Data and Maps within the territory of India, unless specifically provided otherwise. This is an important provision, especially in light of the previous regime's cumbersome and unrealistic compliance-related provisions.
Both government and private organisations are free to process acquired Geospatial Data and create applications and solutions in relation to it, but they are also free to use the applications and solutions by selling, distributing, disseminating, and so on.The Guidelines note that organisations must self-certify their compliance with the Guidelines.The Guidelines confidently assert that there will be no negative list of prohibited areas. This is in clear contrast to the previous approach, in which the MoD specifically demarcated areas such as coastlines, international borders, and so on as restricted for the purpose of map production and publishing..
Some Restrictions that have been notified:
Entities are not permitted to create or own Geospatial Data/Maps with greater spatial accuracy/value than the above-mentioned threshold values.
Restricted Entities, on the other hand, can only obtain a licence for such Geospatial Data/Maps from Indian Entities for the limited purpose of serving their customers in India.
Furthermore, such data access must be provided via APIs, so that the data does not pass through the Restricted Entity or its servers. It is also prohibited to resell or re-use such data.
DST will also form a Geospatial Data Promotion and Development Committee (“GDPDC”), which will include representatives from relevant government departments.
The GDPDC would have the authority to resolve any issues that arose as a result of the finalisation of negative attribute lists and the proposed regulations on those attributes.
The GDPDC would also be in charge of promoting activities related to geospatial data processing.
The Guidelines promote collaboration between the government and private sector in the pursuit of open-linked geospatial data. Once completed, the report of the committee of experts on non-personal data, as well as any subsequent regulations, may contain additional guidelines in this regard.