Saturday, August 08, 2009

Maps vs. map data: appropriately drawing the lines between public and private

I write an article in Financial Express about maps and map databases titled New thinking on a traditional public good.

See excellent responses on this on the India mailing list of openstreetmap: by B V Pradeep and by Satyaakam Goswami. And, see Want to map your hometown? Throw a party by Poornima Mohandas in Mint. For background on openstreetmaps, see this this article by Gary Richmond from October 2008.


  1. Just wanted to mention wikimapia which I use very often (they use google maps). The capability to search "Places of Interest" makes it very useful. e.g.; just search for Delhi followed by NIPFP in the single search box on and you are there. Some of the PoIs have decent annotations.

    I wonder how it compares with openstreetmap. I couldn't find NIPFP although I was able to find the Habitat Centre on OSM. I didn't see a satelite view at OSM which is very useful with wikimapia.

    Mapmyindia started an online website in ~2005 but they have proprietary data and their focus is paid products. The online free website is not too shabby but has improved only marginally since 2005 :( Presumably the paid products might be better.

  2. OSM is a good effort, but it's license is flawed. It should be a pure public domain license, and it is not - they selected CC-by-SA. To their credit, they have been discussing this fascinating issue on their website. (See

    The other issue is that their data is still not good enough - it will take some time to get there, but throwing money is not the solution. users / volunteers will do a better job here!

    Re: Survey of India / GOI
    The GOI continues to view Maps data as a strategic asset, important from the defense perspective - and hence restricted. That makes it much harder for the survey to be open about high resolution data, and compete in this space.

  3. Dear Mr. Ajay Shah,

    Survey of India produces two series of map i.e., Open series Maps(OSMs) and Defence Series Maps (DSMs). To say Survey of India does not even have good quality 1:250,000 topo sheets is completely falsehood. Survey of India is developing various products including 1:10,000 and 1:50,000 toposheets as per user requirements. To say that most important maps in India today are produced by google is also an exaggeration. True google maps are good for general public, but they hold little value for enterprise use.

    Marutish Varanasi

    The author has authored a report on Indian Geospatial Industry in 2005.

  4. Marutish,

    Thank you for your comment. We'd love to know more.

    I know that the US or the UK have 1:24000 topo sheets covering the full country. These topo sheets can be bought in stores. They are available from Garmin for use with Garmin GPSes. They are high quality and uptodate.

    The only topo sheets that I have ever seen from Survey of India are 1:250,000. These have coverage for the full country. These are highly out of date. I have repeatedly myself come across situations on the field where the topo sheet was wrong. And, they are not available!

    As far as a citizen of India is concerned, Survey of India does not have 1:250000 topo sheets of India that are updated and available.

  5. I would agree with Dr Ajay, the office outline map of India is a joke


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