The Indian government doesn't have a high opinion of Google Maps, and it conveyed that sentiment today by saying that the service is "not authenticated" and calling into question its reliability.
That's according to a statement made by the head of the country's mapping and survey organisation, aptly named the Survey of India:
If you talk about the authentication, the Google Maps is not authenticated. It hasn't been produced by the government, so they aren't authenticated.
If you are using Google Maps to reach a restaurant or park, even if you reach 50 meters close to that place, you are happy. But when we have to put a new railway line or make canals, that is where our topographic maps come in, when you require very accurate, engineering quality data.
This isn't the first time the Indian government has gone up against Google. Back in 2010, the government issued a notice to the search giant for classifying two states — Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh — as "disputed territories" and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as belonging to Pakistan. The area in question has been hotly contested by both India and Pakistan for decades.
Last year, the government prohibited Google from bringing its Street View vehicles into the country, stating that the vehicles could record potentially sensitive military installations. Shortly thereafter, it rolled out legislation to curb the efficacy of services like Google Maps.
Contrary to what the government says, Google has invested significant resources into making its Maps data much more reliable in India. In fact, the search giant employs hundreds of contractors in its sprawling Hyderabad office solely for improving location details in Maps. The main issue here is the lack of control — the Indian government cannot enforce Google to remove a specific location or tailor topographic data to suit its needs:
There should be some controls, but the fact is that government doesn't have any restrictions or control over the applications like Google Earth or Maps.
To that effect, Swarna Subba Rao, the Surveyor General of India, is asking Indians to cut down on their reliance on Google Maps and instead switch to the Survey of India's own mapping solution:
We are asking Indians to use maps produced by Survey of India and not those developed by companies outside the country.
The Survey of India is working on its in-house topographic data that will be available to Indians free of cost. According to a senior official within the department, the data is not without its glitches, but the issues are being ironed out right now:
The maps are still being uploaded and there are some glitches with the website which are being fixed.
And if you were interested in seeing what kind of solution the government is planning, head to the official website. Who else feels like it won't be able to match up to what Google is offering?
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