The Indian government is spectacularly touchy when it comes to maps. Newspapers and magazines are routinely censored, topographical maps are subject to export controls, and the very idea of online maps is anathema; a recent Google-run competition to crowd-source map data became the subject of a police investigation after the Survey of India, the country’s official map-making body, filed a case. Bangalore police forced Google to stop collecting data for its Street View service on—what else?—security grounds within a month of the project starting in 2011. There has been no change of heart since.
Or has there? This month Google announced a limited Street View collection featuring heritage sites and monuments in India, an encouraging if underwhelming development. But the launch yesterday of WoNoBo, a homegrown service that offers a Street View-like experience, suggests that the government may finally be softening its stance. Produced by Genesys, a publicly-listed, Mumbai-based GIS company, WoNoBo allows anybody with an internet connection to wander through 12 Indian cities for the first time. Another 42 are in the pipeline. The project cost $35 million and involved some 1,000 people, or about half of Genesys’s strength.
"The government, including the defense ministry and the Survey of India, threw a lot of regulations at us. We painstakingly fulfilled their requirements , including not taking pictures in sensitive areas,” Genesys co-founder Sajid Malik told the Times of India. The result can be somewhat comical: the Gateway of India, the most-photographed monument in Mumbai, is missing from the street view map. The heart of India’s capital—the road from India Gate to the president’s house—is missing from New Delhi.
This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.