Relevance and use of the article in UPSC prelims and mains examination:
Dear aspirants this article help you to conclude about Data openness and the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill According to the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, the acquisition or use of any geospatial information will require permission from a government authority. In this article highlight the importance of reliable geospatial information for development work. In their view, instead of restricting the production and use of such information, the government should regulate its quality and promote learning around it to ensure responsible and ethical use. Please read it carefully.
“Geospatial Information” means geospatial imagery or data acquired through space or aerial platforms such as satellite, aircrafts, airships, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles including value addition; or graphical or digital data depicting natural or man-made physical features, phenomenon or boundaries of the earth or any information related thereto including surveys, charts, maps, terrestrial photos referenced to a coordinate system and having attributes;
About Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016:
- The recently proposed Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, places strict restrictions on the acquisition and use of geospatial information in India. Specifically, this means any information that is geo-located is subject to vetting and approval by a special authority appointed by the government.
- This could include a map you create and share of your daily run using an app such as Runkeeper, a photo of your latest trek with location coordinates, or a web map you create to decide where you can open your next business venture.
- Spurred by the ‘wrongful’ depiction of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir border, the rationale for introducing this bill is to safeguard “sovereignty, security and integrity of India”.
- However, the Indian government’s existing policies related to geospatial information already address this national security objective.
It shall extend to the whole of India and it applies also to-
- citizens of India outside India;
- persons in the service of the Government, wherever they may be; and
- persons on ships and aircrafts, registered in India, wherever they may be.
- Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Act for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he is held guilty in India.
- Any person, who commits an offence beyond India, which is punishable under this Act, shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Act in the same manner as if such act had been committed in India.
- It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification, appoint and different dates may be appointed for different provisions of this Act and any reference in any such provision to the commencement of this Act shall be construed as a reference to the commencement of that provision.
Should this bill become legislation:
- it would negate the principles of openness and transparency that the government’s e-governance initiative is intended to promote. It also hinder important on-ground work to address the information asymmetry that ails the social landscape in India, and hinder inclusive development.
- While the Census Bureau of India generates numerous official statistics such as population distribution by educational attainment, mortality indicators and employment, at the national, state, village and ward levels, there is an inadequacy of nuanced information at more disaggregated levels such as neighborhood or cluster.
- Collecting geospatial information in a participatory way, at the neighborhood or cluster level, allows us to address this information asymmetry, by according visibility to spaces and consequently the people within them who are often missing from the public discourse (such as the people who aren’t able to benefit from MNREGA because they might be in a geographically inaccessible area).
- It also allows integration of information across the social, economic and cultural sectors, and informs decision-making, and because anyone can contribute this information, it ensures representativeness.
The importance of reliable geospatial information for inclusive development
- we depend on geospatial information, to fulfil our mission of achieving social impact through data. Using Volunteered Geographic Information, which is essentially location-based information volunteered by the public (and which the geospatial bill makes punishable to collect without approval), we build Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in a participatory manner.
- Collecting geospatial data through Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) allows us to quickly and efficiently generate high-quality maps which, once integrated with the survey/interview data we collect in the field, facilitate an understanding of existing assets and needs, evaluation of interventions and analysis of the drivers of inequalities. Most importantly, our participatory approach democratises the data we generate and makes communities active stakeholders in the process of positive social change.
- In one of our post-implementation assessments of water and sanitation facilities carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, for instance, we evaluated the efficacy of a WASH programme undertaken at the community and institutional level in rural areas of the aforementioned states. To do this, the information collected from community caretakers on the functionality of water points being installed, restored, rehabilitated or improved by the organisation was made available online and plotted on a map.
- To understand nuances such as barriers to access owing to factors like caste, power dynamics, gender violence or privatisation of water points over a period of time, the resulting geospatial information enabled us to democratise this data for the community and help identify and address issues specific to a water point in real time.
A viable alternative: Regulating information quality and promoting learning.
- Whether the government likes it or not, geospatial information is here to grow. From improving service provision, and monitoring disease outbreaks, to mitigating disaster responses and bettering governance, geospatial information, especially is highly relevant in today’s world.
- By penalising people for contributing information which the government deems unsuitable, such a bill would disrupt participatory research processes, which are central to ensuring democratic participation of communities in advocating for an inclusive and egalitarian development process.
- Considered a public good and paid for by the taxpayer, data is a democratic right. Instead of restricting the production of and access to geospatial information, we strongly advocate openness in its creation, collection and dissemination.
- we must remember that it is the decentralisation of power which forms the cornerstone of participatory democracy and that stands at risk with absolute decrees such as this proposed bill.
- Geospatial information refers to any data that is referenced to a place, represented by a set of geographic coordinates, which is essentially collected and made available in real time.
- The e-governance initiative refers to the usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to monitor and track progress of development programmes - status of queries, processing employees’ payrolls, generation of reports, and so on.
Question for prelims:
Assertion (A):In Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, the acquisition or use of any geospatial information will require permission from a government authority.
Reason(R):we depend on geospatial information, to fulfil our mission of achieving social impact through data.
Choose the correct answer using following code:
- A and R both are true and R is the correct explanation of A.
- A and R both are true but R is not the correct explanation of A.
- A is true R is false.
- A is false R is true.
Question for mains:
Keeping in mind the indian internal security scenario.Place your views for recntly concluded Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016.(200 words)
- Define Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016 and its provisions.
- Discuss its pros and cons
- Define its concern regarding internal security.