Associated Press

Wander through 12 cities for the first time.

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.

So how did Genesys succeed where Google failed? The company won the government’s trust with previous projects, including one to aerially photograph 137 cities for the Survey of India. More importantly, it knew how to handle India’s notorious bureaucracy: Genesys allowed the Survey of India to vet its results and gained permission from city authorities, the central government and the defense ministry.
 

"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.

India’s reified list of “prohibited sites” where photography is not permitted means that’s unlikely to change any time soon, even though the government broadcasts that precise stretch on national television for the Republic Day parade each year. Yet WoNoBo is one more encouraging sign that India is finally getting over its distrust of foreigners. Until last year, tourists couldn’t visit India for a period of two months after leaving it, ostensibly to prevent spies and terrorists from conducting reconnaissance. By contrast, the government announced this week that it is considering a proposal to allow the vast majority of visitors to obtain a visa on arrival.


This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of a WeWork office building
    Life

    What WeWork’s Demise Could Do to NYC Real Estate

    The troubled coworking company is the largest office tenant in New York City. What happens to the city’s commercial real estate market if it goes under?

  2. Life

    Why Do Instagram Playgrounds Keep Calling Themselves Museums?

    The bustling industry of immersive, Instagram-friendly experiences has put a new spin on the word museum.

  3. a photo of Extinction Rebellion climate change protesters in London
    Environment

    When Climate Activists Target Public Transit

    The climate protest movement Extinction Rebellion is facing a backlash after disrupting commuters on the London Underground.

  4. Transportation

    A Micromobility Experiment in Pittsburgh Aims to Get People Out of Their Cars

    The Pittsburgh Micromobility Collective will create all-in-one mobility hubs near transit stops, to compete with Uber and Lyft and help commuters go car-free.

  5. Uber Eats worker
    Life

    The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

    As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash, the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.

×