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Make Data Work
September 11, 2018: Training & Tutorials
September 12–13, 2018: Keynotes & Sessions
New York, NY

Mapping India

S Anand (Gramener)
4:00pm–4:30pm Tuesday, 09/11/2018
Law, ethics, governance
Location: 1E 10 Level: Non-technical

Answering simple questions about India’s geography can be a nightmare. Official shape files are not publicly available in India. Worse, each ministry uses their own maps. The maps put together by the postal office differ from the administrative boundaries, which differ from the electoral boundaries, which differ from the city municipal boundaries. Some are not digitized. Nor are these teams able to source maps from each other.

But in the last five years, a set of open data communities, such as DataMeet, have emerged. These groups of volunteers have mapped villages, postal codes, electoral boundaries, and more from the ground up and made the maps available publicly. Their efforts are augmented by an international community of volunteers and geospatial experts. In addition, the community has built a series of tools that allow the public to build geospatial applications on top of this data.

The first to benefit from this wave have been data journalists and researchers. Corporations quickly caught on and are rapidly replacing the many commercial offerings that have sprouted in this area with these maps. The government too has taken notice and is open to collaborating with the community and taking up these maps.

This initiative took years, but is best described as “emergent” rather than “planned.” Anand S explains what it takes for a grass-roots initiative to transform a country’s data infrastructure.

Photo of S Anand

S Anand


Anand S is a cofounder of data science company Gramener, where he leads a team of data enthusiasts who tell visual stories of insights from analysis. These are built on the Gramener Visualisation Server. Previously, Anand worked at IBM, Infosys, Lehman Brothers, and BCG. He studied at IIT Madras, IIM Bangalore, and LBS.