Announcing a sweeping change in India’s mapping policy, the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, liberalised regulations on geospatial data, making it freely available in the country for Indian e-commerce companies like JioMart – although the foreign e-commerce companies like Amazon or even the foreign-owned Indian entities like Flipkart would have to go through the same bureaucratic process.
Earlier companies like JioMart as well as Amazon were forced to go through the same bureaucratic process that has survived from license raj to date. “Compliance with regulatory restrictions has subjected startups in India to unnecessary red-tape, hindering Indian innovation for decades,” said the Department of Science and Technology.
The change is made specifically for Indian companies by updating the current guidelines pertaining to developing map technologies. And, this will help companies in India over the foreign-owned ones – which will further incentivize the Aatmanirbhar Bharat campaign. For example, e-commerce companies like JioMart would have an edge in data collection through geo-spatial mapping to improve the operations, over foreign companies like Amazon and Walmart owned Flipkart.
According to an official statement, the government realised that the existing regime imposed significant restrictions on the mapping industry, from creation to dissemination of maps, requiring companies like JioMart to seek licenses and follow a cumbersome system of pre-approvals and permissions. Compliance with these regulatory restrictions has subjected startups in India to red tape, hindering Indian innovation in map technologies for decades, it said. “We look forward to India emerging as a mapping power, creating next-generation indigenous maps and taking new technologies to the world,” said the Department of Science and Technology.
The Union Science and Technology Ministry, while announcing the new guidelines, said that it will greatly enhance the preparedness of India for emergency response.
“With the new guidelines, individuals, companies, organizations, and government agencies shall be free to process the acquired geospatial data, build applications, and develop solutions in relation to such data and use such data products, applications, and solutions by way of selling, distributing, sharing, swapping, disseminating, publishing, ….,” it said.
The ministry also stated that the policy change is aligned to the Indian vision of “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” to achieve a $5 trillion economy. Science and Technology Secretary, Professor Ashutosh Sharma, said that the increased participation of the private sector will augment the growth of new technologies, platforms, and applications of geospatial data contributing to the country’s progress.
However, the Indian government has put in place a few new rules to function. Sharma said that there is a restriction on revealing the attributes or features of sensitive areas even though there would be none on surveying the area itself.
“The data is not for access, but only for surveying,” he added.
Similarly, terrestrial mapping and surveying will be allowed only by Indian entities like JioMart. The data generated from such processes can be owned only by Indians. Foreign players like Amazon can license the information but not own it.
The new mapping policy of the Indian government would help Indian e-commerce companies like JioMart and the upcoming one by Tata. India’s e-commerce space, which is growing at an exponential pace since the few years, is dominated by foreign players with two of the largest companies owned by American giants like Amazon. Therefore, for the headstart, the Indian e-commerce companies need to have an advantage over the foreign ones and the liberalised policy for geo-spatial mapping would do the same.