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Why licence for Google Maps could be good news for India

Sahil Mohan Gupta
Sahil Mohan GuptaMay 06, 2016 | 18:47

Why licence for Google Maps could be good news for India

It may sound completely daft on part of the Indian government to create a regulatory framework for third parties to catalogue, photograph and chart out India for mapping purposes, but there could be a method to the government’s madness.

As of now, when a company like Google creates maps for India, it does that of its own volition and doesn’t need to seek any licence from the Indian government for the same. It is based on crowdsourcing too - services like Google Map Maker and Waze facilitate that. This also means that the licence is basically bad news.

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The licence could mean that Google use IRNSS.

The government, in an attempt to control geographical data of the country, will slowdown the rate at which the maps are updated. Perhaps this licence may also render services like Waze useless, which uses a lot of crowd-sourced information.

It will obviously be a major hazard for services like Uber, Ola and even Apple, which for years has been trying to build a world-class maps platform.

So, why would the government decide to do something so wildly ludicrous? Think, think.

Well, the licence would surely be a source of revenue. Violations will be another source of revenue.

The government also hopes to avoid embarrassing situations which have happened in the past, such as areas of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh shown as parts of Pakistan and China respectively, in services like Google Maps.

But the one thing most people aren’t thinking about is that it could be used to bolster Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), which is India’s recently launched answer to GPS.

Now, Google Maps uses GPS and GLONASS on phones for turn-by-turn navigation. The licence could mean that Google use IRNSS, which would force smartphone makers to incorporate the technology in their phones considering India’s importance in the global smartphone economy.

IRNSS will become operational in June, and by the time the licensing structure comes into place, there could be a situation that Android phone makers could be forced to integrate IRNSS just for compatibility with Google Maps.

This could further be tied in with Digital India and Make in India campaigns incentivising smartphone makers to incorporate India’s new positioning satellite system.

Last updated: May 06, 2016 | 18:55
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