SoI’s Open Series Maps Fails to Implement Public Sharing of Govt Data

Posted by Sumandro Chattapadhyay at May 04, 2017 12:19 PM |
Although it has made the topographic maps or the Open Series Maps available to general public, Survey of India’s (SoI) Nakshe portal will have to go through a variety of litmus test, as the initiative fails to implement the mandates of public sharing of government data using open standards and open license as put forward by the NMP 2005 and NDSAP 2012, says Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Research Director, The Centre for Internet and Society. This interview was published by Geospatial World on May 02, 2017.


Cross-posted from Geospatial World.

What are your views on the Nakshe Portal initiative from Survey of India?

It is a most welcome initiative by the Survey of India to realize the mandate of the National Map Policy (NMP) 2005 to publicly distribute “Open Series Maps of scales larger than 1:1 million”. The Survey of India has also drawn from and implemented the mandate of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) 2012 to make available the shareable and non-sensitive Open Series Maps documents without any necessary fees to access and use them.

The initiative, however, fails to achieve the goal of of public sharing of government data using open standards and open license as put forward by the NMP 2005 and NDSAP 2012. This substantively raises the barrier to access the Open Series Maps data and reduces its possibilities of reuse, especially for commercial innovation, in a very serious way. This undermining of the open data agenda is not only a concern for the Nakshe portal in particular, but also sets a dangerous precedent for future open government data initiatives in India.

What is your view on the data provided and its usability?

The Nakshe portal has created several barriers to access and use of the Open Series Maps data, all of which are in violation of the NMP 2005 and NDSAP 2012:

  • NDSAP 2012 mandates that shareable and non-sensitive government data (such as Open Series Maps) are made public through the portal created under the guidance of the NDSAP 2012. Survey of India may of course decide to publish the Open Series Maps data on the Nakshe portal along with on the portal. Publishing of the data only through the Nakshe portal not only violates the mandate of NDSAP 2012, they make such data much less discoverable.

  • NDSAP 2012 allows for “registered access” to open government data. That is, it allows for data to be shared only with users who have registered with the data publishing portal. Making registration only possible via Aadhaar number, however, significantly limits the number of users who can access this data. For example, non-Indian researchers form an important potential sub-section of users of Open Series Maps but they will not be able to access the data. The website neither has a privacy policy that clarifies how these submitted Aadhaar numbers will be stored, protected, and shared (if at all) by the Survey of India.

  • NMP 2005 instructs Survey of India to “allow a user to add value to the maps obtained (either in analogue or digital formats) and prepare his own value-added maps”. The Government Open Data License has been recently notified under NDSAP 2012 to guide permitted uses of open government data in India.

    The very restricted approach to permitted end-uses of Open Series Maps by the Survey of India neither follow the NMP instruction, nor adopt the Government Open Data License. Data available from Nakshe portal cannot be exported (which is technically an absurd demand due to globally distributed nature of servers), commercialized, or altered. This creates a most serious barrier to using the Open Series Maps data available via the Nakshe portal.

  • The Nakshe portal has published geospatial data in PDF format. This is a clear violation of open data practices globally and the NDSAP Implementation Guidelines more specifically, which states that open geospatial data standards, like GML and KML, should be used).

Does this fall in line with the larger government aim of having open and accessible data? If not why?

In a nutshell, the Open Series Maps data being published on the Nakshe portal is neither open (as it does not use open standards to share the data and does not share the data under an open licenses) nor universally accessible (due to the requirement for registration via Aadhaar number).

What improvements do you suggest in the approach of SoI about the portal?

I have listed four major conflicts that the Nakshe portal has with the directives and guidelines offered by the NMP 2005 and NDSAP 2012. I sincerely hope that the Survey of India and the Department of Science and Technology will address them soon, as they significantly limit the ability of users to access and use the Open Series Maps data.

These changes will make the Open Series Maps data open, and ensure that the data can be accessed and innovated with by various stakeholders.