An Explainer on the Draft National Geospatial Policy (2021)

Government Policy Jun 4, 2021

‘Geospatial Technology’ was a sector heavily regulated by multiple policies and legislations. However, in February, 2021, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) sought to liberalise it by releasing a set of guidelines to remove several restrictions on the storage and dissemination of geospatial data. According to these guidelines, no security clearance or approval will be required for the digitisation, storage and dissemination of geospatial data, except data relating to a list of negative attributes released by the DST; mere self-certification by the user will be required. Following the release of these “de-regulatory” guidelines, the DST issued the Draft National Geospatial Policy (2021) to devise a comprehensive policy framework for the “advancement of geospatial technology.”

Need for a new geospatial policy

  • Different government agencies such as the Survey of India and Department of Land Resources, often digitize and store geospatial data. There is often a duplication of efforts when multiple agencies store such data leading to a wastage of resources. There is a need to reduce this wastage by standardizing the formats of geospatial data storage and dissemination
  • Although geospatial education is provided in around 200 universities/institutions, there is no standardization in its curriculum
  • Access to geospatial data by non-governmental entities including both businesses and individuals is restricted. (Restrictions on collecting, digitising, storing and sharing of geospatial data were sought  to be lifted, however, through the Guidelines for Acquiring and Producing Geospatial Data and Geospatial Data Services).
  • The data shared by the government is often not machine-readable

The Draft New Geospatial Policy was released to address these shortcomings.

Key features of the policy

  • The Survey of India [(SoI) topographic data will made widely and easily accessible
  • Geospatial data and information produced using public funds will be shared as per the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (2012)
  • Efforts will be made to standardise the storage formats of geospatial data to so that it becomes available in an interoperable machine-readable form
  • A standardised curriculum will be developed for geospatial data education
  • A certifying body will be constituted to review the practices of professionals such as, surveyors, and certify individuals on the completion of courses in geospatial education
  • The policy reiterated the intention of the government to trust businesses and individuals to work with geospatial data without obtaining clearances from the government, except in the case of sensitive “negative” attributes which are not to be marked on maps. These negative attributes will be notified by the DST

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