Baba’s Explainer – Geospatial Policy

  • IASbaba
  • January 12, 2023
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • GS-3: Indian Economy

Context: The government notified the 2022 National Geospatial Policy on December 28, 2022, for implementation with immediate effect.

What is geo-spatial data?
  • Geospatial data is data about objects, events, or phenomena that have a location on the surface of the earth.
  • The location may be static in the short-term, like the location of a road, an earthquake event, or dynamic like a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease.
  • Geospatial data combines location information, attribute information (the characteristics of the object, event, or phenomena concerned), and often also temporal information or the time at which the location and attributes exist.
  • Geo-spatial data has now become imperative for the government in planning for infrastructure, development, social development, natural calamities as well as the economy with more and more sectors relying heavily on this data.
  • The past decade has seen an increase in the use of geo-spatial data in daily life with various apps such as food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce like Amazon or even weather apps.
What was the erstwhile policy on geo-spatial data?
  • There are strict restrictions on the collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping under the current regime driven by internal as well as external security concerns. 
  • Private companies need to navigate a system of permissions from different departments of the government (Home, defence, etc.) to be able to collect, create or disseminate geo-spatial data.
Why does the government want to de-regulate geo-spatial data?
  • This system of acquiring licenses or permission has delayed projects for both private companies and government agencies.
  • The deregulation eliminates the requirement of permissions as well as scrutiny, even for security concerns.
  • Indian companies now can self-attest, conforming to government guidelines without actually having to be monitored by a government agency.
  • There is also a huge lack of data in the country which impedes planning for infrastructure, development and businesses which are data-based.
  • The mapping of the entire country, that too with high accuracy, by the Indian government alone could take decades. Therefore, opening up the sector and incentivising the private sector will speed up the process of mapping.
  • Large amounts of geo-spatial data are also available on global platforms, which makes the regulation of data that is freely available in other countries, untenable.
  • Deregulation entails
    • Geospatial data that used to be restricted will now be freely available in India for Indian companies.
    • They will no longer be subject to restrictions nor do they require prior approvals before they collect, generate, prepare, disseminate, store, publish, update digital geospatial data and maps within the territory of India.
What is the latest geospatial policy?
  • The new Geospatial Policy will replace the National Map Policy, 2005.
  • It aims to strengthen the location-centric industry to support the information economy.
  • It uses guidelines for acquiring and producing geospatial data and related services including maps.
  • The policy a “step in the right direction”, because geospatial data was so far tightly controlled by the government. The policy is more like liberalisation of geospatial industry.
  • The National Geospatial Policy lists the following targets to be achieved before 2035.
    • High resolution geospatial survey of inland waters and sea surface topography of shallow/deep seas to support Blue Economy.
    • Survey and mapping of sub-surface infrastructure in major cities and towns.
    • National Digital Twin of major cities and towns.
    • Geospatial Knowledge Infrastructure (GKI) underpinned by Integrated Data and Information Framework (by 2030).
    • Enhance capabilities, skills and awareness to meet future need. (by 2030).
  • It also aims to support innovation and creation in the field, “bridging the geospatial data divide”.
  • It seeks to create long-term, sustainable geospatial information management through capacity development and education programmes.
What are the merits of new policy?
  • Increase Competitiveness in sector: So far, there was no clear policy, and private sector was unsure of what can and cannot be done in the geospatial field, the policy recognises the importance of the geospatial industry and sends a signal to market to elicit private participation.
    • By liberalising the system, the government will ensure more players in the field, competitiveness of Indian companies in the global market
    • While the Survey of India (SoI) will play the lead role in maintaining high resolution/high spatial accuracy maps, actual collection and collation of data will be increasingly done with private sector participation.
  • Increased Investment and boost to Economy: The government also expects an increase in investment in the geo-spatial sector by companies, and also an increase in export of data to foreign companies and countries, which in turn will boost the economy
  • Make in India: The policy emphasises the importance of locally available and locally relevant maps and geospatial data.
  • Democratisation of Data: The government hopes that the policy will encourage open standards, open data and platforms. The policy is structured to contribute towards the democratisation of data.
  • Evidence-based Policy making: This will ensure that more accurate data is available to both the government to formulate plans and administer its programmes. Maps and accurate geospatial data are crucial for national infrastructure projects such as linkages of rivers, creation of industrial corridors and deploying smart power systems.
  • Boost to Start-ups: Liberalisation of the mapping industry and democratization of existing datasets will spur domestic innovation and enable Indian companies to compete in the global mapping ecosystem by leveraging modern geospatial technologies.
  • Ease of doing business: Liberalisation in the field has the potential to support the government’s ease of doing business policy for the policy remove the erstwhile licence raj in the geospatial industry
  • Aids in Urban Governance: The policy also aims at creating national digital twins of cities and towns, an exercise that is believed to play a big role to play in the sustainability of our cities.
  • Better Quality of Data for E-commerce Industry: The e-commerce and delivery industry will be one of the main beneficiaries of deregulation in the field of geospatial data in India as more private player participation in geospatial fields leads to better quality of data.
  • Enhanced Accountability: Google Maps is the one providing (geospatial) data to many but they are not completely answerable to Indian authorities. Locally produced maps will enable government to have better control over firms. Also, using data from Google Maps is expensive, and open data is not always reliable.
  • Employment generation: The move will unlock tremendous opportunities for the country’s private sector, public sector, and research institutions, to drive innovations and build scalable solutions which will in turn generate employment
  • With the National Geospatial Policy, the government aims to employ geospatial technology and data towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Main Practice Question: Analyse the new 2022 National Geospatial Policy with regard to its implications to the economy.

Note: Write answer his question in the comment section.

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