All central and state government bodies will have to compulsorily share data with each other to create a common “searchable database”, according to a draft policy document.
The document, released on Monday by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY), has proposed an India Data Office (IDO) with the idea of streamlining and consolidating data access, and sharing of public data repositories across government and other stakeholders.
The ‘Draft India Data Accessibility and Use’ policy is open for public consultations till March 18.
The policy document provides an update to the existing government policies — the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) and the Open Government Data Platform (OGD) India — a government official . It also comes at a time when the government had set up a committee under Infosys cofounder S (Kris) Gopalakrishnan in 2019 to draft a framework for sharing of non-personal data (NPD) or anonymous data of Indians.
NPD is data stripped of personally identifiable information.
The current policy has, however, kept the private sector out of any mandatory data sharing with the government. “Startups and enterprises can dip into the common pool of data for their businesses. So far, the policy has only made it mandatory for government bodies to share data. Private companies can contribute to the pool on a voluntary basis,” a government official aware of the matter.
The idea is to “enhance access, quality, and use of data”, in line with the current and emerging technology needs, according to the document. “India’s ambitions of becoming a $5 trillion digital economy depends on its ability to harness the value of data. Considering this, the India Data Accessibility and Use Policy aims to enhance access, quality, and use of data in line with the current and emerging technology needs of the decade,” said the policy document.
The policy will apply to all data and information generated, created, collected or archived by the central government and authorised agencies. State governments can also adopt the provisions, as applicable, the draft policy document said. Every ministry will also have data management units led by chief data officers to implement the policy. Researchers, startups, enterprises, individuals and government departments will be able to access data through data licensing, sharing and valuation within the overall framework of data security and privacy, it said. “India Data Council — comprising India Data Officer and chief data officers of departments of government of India and state governments — shall be constituted with the objective of undertaking tasks that require deliberation across ministries, departments and state governments,” according to the draft.
The council will define frameworks for high-value data sets, finalising data standards and metadata standards, as well as reviewing the implementation of the policy, among others.
Experts have welcomed the latest government move.
They said it is better that the government first tests some of the data sharing models and governance practices with its own data sets before expanding the policy to include the private sector.
“This addresses a question that was asked many times when the NPD recommendations about data sharing by the private sector were released – On why the government – which has such valuable databases – does not first enable data sharing within itself before mandating it for the private sector,” said Parminder Jeet Singh, executive director of Policy for Change, a think tank.
Singh was also a member of the Gopalakrishnan committee on NPD.
As per the document, all government data will be open and shareable unless classified under a negative list of data sets. For restricted data sets, pricing will be decided by the owner government agency.
“Minimally processed data sets shall be made freely available. Only detailed data sets that have undergone value addition, transformation and qualify for monetisation may be priced appropriately,” it said.
The draft also said a data-sharing toolkit will be provided to ministries and departments to assess and manage risks associated with data sharing and release.
This framework will identify whether specific data sets qualify for releases, restricted sharing or negative lists, in addition to defining mechanisms and required degree of anonymisation.