The Centre on Monday allowed access to India’s geospatial data and services, including maps, for all entities in the country, to “realise India’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat and the goal of a 5 trillion-dollar economy”. With this, private entities can now access such data without any restrictions or seeking prior approvals.

“What is readily available globally does not need to be restricted in India and therefore geospatial data that used to be restricted will now be freely available in India,” the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement.

The update is a major change in the country’s mapping policy, which earlier required individuals and companies to seek approval for use of mapping data under the Geospatial Information Regulation Act, 2016, reported The Hindu.

The ministry said that maps and accurate geospatial data were important for various infrastructure projects as well as needed for technologies such as eCommerce, Digital India, delivery, logistics, among others. “India’s farmers, small businesses and corporations alike stand to gain tremendously from the application of innovative technologies based on modern geospatial data technologies and mapping services,” it said.

The ministry said that the policy update will help Indian innovators to make advances in mapping, leading to empowering small businesses and making the lives of the country’s citizens easier. “We look forward to India emerging as a mapping power, creating next-generation indigenous maps of India and taking these new technologies to the rest of the world,” the statement said.

The ministry pointed out that startups and mapping innovators will be trusted to self-certify and apply good judgement to demonstrate adherence to guidelines related to the matter. The government has issued some restrictions for the reforms, reported NDTV. For instance, there are restrictions on revealing the attributes or features of some sensitive areas but there are none on surveying these locations.

It has also proposed promoting the development of Indian geospatial innovations that make use of the latest mapping technologies.

Ashutosh Sharma, secretary to the Department of Science and Technology, said that ease of collecting data, using it, and sharing it was a key concern of the government as it decided to free the process. “Government agencies and private sector must collaborate very strongly to avoid duplication and also to bring in speed and scale in the whole process of collecting and using data,” he said. “The guideline is not for access, but only for surveying.”

Only Indian entities are allowed to conduct terrestrial mapping and surveying. Also, data generated from these can be owned only by Indians. Foreign players can licence the information but not own it.

Farmers will benefit too, says PM Modi

In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the reform will unlock opportunities for start-ups, research institutions and private and public sectors to drive innovation, and also generate employment and boost economic growth.

“These reforms demonstrate our commitment to improving ease of doing business in India by deregulation,” Modi tweeted.

In another tweet, he said that India’s farmers will also benefit by leveraging the potential of geo-spatial and remote sensing data. “Democratizing data will enable the rise of new technologies & platforms that will drive efficiencies in agriculture and allied sectors,” the prime minister said.

Chief Executive of MapMyIndia Rohan Verma said the reforms will result in unprecedented value creation for the Indian economy and the society. Last week, the Indian Space Research Organisation and MapMyIndia had announced an initiative to develop a “Make in India” rival to Google Maps.