Liberalisation of Geospatial data usage will propel the Indian Economy

Several estimates put the cost of GIS data-related inefficiencies at $10-12 billion a year. The recent announcement of “One nation one address”, coupled with the democratization of GIS data, will augment the vision of a $5 trillion economy
Niranjan Seelam, Co-Founder, Zippr

When we think about geospatial data we visualize maps, roads, buildings and data geographic locations. While this is partially true, the true implications of geospatial data go beyond physical locations. Geospatial data also consists of dynamic data referring to objects on the surface of a given boundary, for example – an earthquake event, natural calamities, or, as seen most recently, a wild spreading contagious pandemic. As technology advances, geospatial data becomes crucial for integration with service offerings by many industries. The efficiency of these industries operating and boosting the economy is largely dependent on the accuracy of their GIS data. Whether it’s a food delivery service, logistics, navigation, or contact tracing methods during a pandemic, GIS data impacts each one of us in our daily lives as well as the economy at large.

GIS Landscape
According to a 2018 NASSCOM and geospatial media report, India’s GIS economy is estimated at Rs 20,629 crores while it ranks 26th in geospatial readiness among 50 nations. Today, India develops cutting-edge technologies that are at par with global standards in almost every sector. In sectors like Healthcare, we are ahead of our global counterparts in developing and manufacturing new vaccines. However, there’s a large gap in data availability in the GIS sector. Until now, the GIS landscape was tightly controlled by the Indian government and related agencies. Companies needed to go-through painstaking processes to obtain data from the govt agencies, which could last for months. We, at Zippr, had first-hand experience of this complex process. We required satellite imagery for one of our projects, and the data procuring procedure took nine months while we only had nine months to develop and implement our entire project. Lack of data availability not only hinders data-based businesses but also impedes infrastructure planning. High-accuracy mapping of the country will take decades if undertaken alone by the government. Therefore, bringing private investments and incentivising the sector was a compelling need.

The deregulation and economic impact
The government has liberalised the restrictions and democratized the process of GIS satellite imagery procurement. According to the new guidelines, entities and individuals require no prior approval or security clearance, or a license to collect, process, publish or store satellite data. Indian companies can now obtain data by conforming to government guidelines without any oversight by a government agency. The easy accessibility to the latest and most accurate satellite imagery will play a crucial role in ushering India into a SMART era. Companies are now free to procure and source the imagery without depending on the certified agencies. It will have a tremendous impact on the delivery timelines of tech projects.

Almost 90% of tech B2C startups are heavily dependent on location data. Most of these companies are collecting data on their own and operating in silos. With this new game-changing law, we will see companies launching their versions of maps or creating business models to monetise this data. It will help companies to reduce unnecessary dependencies and create a level playing field in the ecosystem. In India, the unavailability of proper standardized addresses results in inefficiencies across industries.

Several estimates put the cost of GIS data-related inefficiencies at $10-12 billion a year. The recent announcement of “One nation one address”, coupled with the democratization of GIS data, will augment our vision of a $5 trillion economy. It will also be a boon to the gig economy, which will thrive with accurate and efficient data sets. The BLUE economy that originates with India’s 7,500 km sea shoreline contributes close to 4% of the GDP. Deregulation will also allow capturing data from sea coasts, marine industries, mining, and forestry. Organizations will be able to monetize this data which will further boost the economy. The deregulation will also enhance public-private partnerships as companies find new opportunities to work with the government on data-based planning and infrastructure development projects.

A necessity in a post-pandemic world
India’s $5 trillion economy vision is not a standalone target. It is the collective vision of every industry and the future of our population. In 2020, we witnessed the crucial role played by GIS data for contact tracing in countries like Japan and South Korea. We now realize that accurate and efficient geospatial data can play an important role in managing mass vaccination drives across the country. We must inevitably develop technologies based on satellite data to propel the economy forward. Location information has become core to the modern digital ecosystem and is critical to unlocking the socio-economic opportunities for sustainable growth. By removing the hurdles in procuring, creating, and monetizing the geospatial data, the recent developments have unleashed the full potential of the geospatial sector.

In a world where the shared-economy dominates the way we consume food and travel, location intelligence is paramount to determining that such facilities are available on time. But the reality is that there is a huge lack of data in the country, which translates into a need for mapping data with high accuracy. India is the only economy projected to grow in double-digits, 11.5 percent in 2021. It is possible to consistently achieve this growth only when all the sectors are at their fullest potential.

The GIS sector currently employs 2,51,300 people, as per the NASSCOM report. The new regulations will increase this number by manifolds in the coming years. Better infrastructure, providing healthcare support to remote areas, growth in eCommerce and logistic services, and large-scale employment generation through new business are some of the benefits of opening up the geospatial sector. In the years to come, every citizen and company will have access to high-quality imagery and location data at a tap of a button.

Deregulation is the first step in a journey of a few decades. Now nothing is stopping India from having its own navigational system, our version of google maps. Who knows the world might use our geospatial tech in the coming years instead of the other way round.

geospatial dataGISNiranjan SeelamZippr
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