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Geospatial data collected by government made publicly available via newly-launched online portals

Private companies can reportedly purchase and download the data online without visiting agency offices; meanwhile, a national policy involving geospatial data is also in the works.  

Geospatial data like data on natural or man-made geographical features above and below the ground will now be publicly accessible to Indians, according to a government press releaseThe data will be made accessible through three online portals developed by the Survey of India (SOI) and the National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organization (NATMO).

In May, the government had introduced a draft National Geospatial Policy which was geared towards making geospatial data easily available for all Indian citizens. The Department of Science and Technology had invited comments on the policy with a May 22 deadline.

More details about the portals

The three newly-inaugurated online portals mentioned in the press release are:

GEO Spatial Data Dissemination Portal: The online portal has been developed by SOI. Geospatial data generated out of public funds will be available on this portal to government and private users. The press release said that the user will no longer have to visit the SOI office and can purchase and download products online at their doorstep through the Bharat Kosh payment gateway of the Government of India. 

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MANCHITRAN: Users can see, download, and give feedback about the maps and atlases and different geo-spatial data layers in “MANCHITRAN.” It showcases the data acquired by NATMO over 65 years and is intended for students, researchers, industry, decision-makers, policymakers, administrators, etc. 

SARTHI: It’s a web geographical information system (GIS) application that utilises the new advancements in web application developments with GIS tools such as spatial data visualisation, manipulation, analysis, etc. It would reduce the need to create custom applications and provides a platform for integrating GIS with other business systems. It would enable cross-organisational collaboration in consonance with the new Geospatial Policy and can be accessed in vernacular languages. The press release claims that this will save time and resources in data validation with audit trail, which will facilitate SVAMITVA (Survey of villages and mapping with improvised technology in village areas) – a new project of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

Digital Products provided by the portal 

The following products are available on SOI’s GEO Spatial Data Dissemination Portal and can be accessed by Indian citizens:

  • Digital Geographical Map
  • Railway Map 
  • Political Map
  • Digital Geographical Road Map
  • Digital Geographical Physical Map of India
  • Open Series Map Scale

Draft Geospatial Data Policy, 2021

  • The Department of Science and Technology had released the Draft National Geospatial Policy 2021, in February which proposes to liberalise the collection and dissemination of geospatial data and allow private companies to conduct surveys and mapping without government approvals. The draft also predicted that the worth of the geospatial market in India would be nearly Rs. 1 lakh crore by 2029-30
  • The draft policy also noted that the regulatory paradigm in the government, through its various acts, rules, policies, and guidelines, had not kept pace with the geospatial sector, and hence ended up stifling it. It said, “There is a duplication of efforts and wastage of resources in the absence of availability of reliable geospatial data to access and use by various agencies, government and private.”
  • The policy claims that it will augment geospatial education in the country, from school level, through standardisation and certification of courses and skillsets.
  • It also proposes to maintain the quality of surveyors by introducing a mechanism to certify surveying skills.
  • The policy claims that it will encourage the creation and incubation of startups; promote collaboration, including public-private partnerships between agencies; make Survey of India topographic data easily available, and so on.

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