In February 2022, the Indian government presented a project titled “Draft Indian Data Accessibility and Usage Policy 2022”. It aimed to transform India’s ability to leverage public sector data. Senapathy Kris Gopalakrishnan, the co-founder of Infosys, also believes that non-personal data generated in India should be allowed to be used; he also led the expert committee for the non-personal data governance framework.
However, it was later scrapped and a new project was presented in May 2022, titled “Draft National Data Governance Framework Policy.”
Why was the “Draft Indian Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022” scrapped?
The project has its roots in the National Economic Survey 2019who indicated that commercializing government data could help India achieve its goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy. Chapter 4 the survey reads: “The private sector may be granted access to certain databases for commercial purposes…Given that the private sector has the potential to reap massive dividends from this data, it is fair to make them pay for their use.
With databases like Adhar, Emerald (Agricultural sector), e-SHRAM (non-unionized workers), Arogya Setu, ABHA (Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission), and NEAR (National Digital Education Architecture), the government has a massive amount of data.
However, there were several issues with the monetization of this collected data. In the absence of comprehensive data protection legislation ensuring accountability for data breaches or excessive data collection, the government had tried to monetize it before.
While the policy aimed at anonymization, experts said it lacked legal accountability and independent regulatory oversight. Apart from this, the policy also had other issues, which were tackled by the government in a good mood.
Draft National Data Governance Framework Policy 2022
India’s Draft Data Accessibility and Usage Policy 2022 has been superseded by Draft National Data Governance Framework Policy which intends to modernize government data collection to improve governance and develop a national artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven research and startup ecosystem.
The stated objectives of the policy include, among others, the promotion of digital governance, the promotion of the digital economy, the establishment of uniform standards for open access digital platforms and the standardization of practices for the collection, management and data security. According to the policy, the achievement of these objectives would facilitate the implementation of a whole-of-government strategy and would also promote better governance.
The policy states that this must be done while protecting the privacy, security and trust of individuals.
As indicated in the Disorganized, the policy would apply to all government departments and agencies, and the established norms and standards would apply to all data collected and processed by any government agency. In addition, the policy would apply to all datasets and non-personal data, as well as the platforms, regulations and standards controlling their access and use by academics and startups.
The Disorganized proposes to establish an “Indian Data Management Office (IDMO)” under the Digital India Corporation (DIC), which reports to MeitY. According to the project, the IDMO should be in charge of drafting regulations, standards, recommendations and other operations such as collaboration with the government.
Moreover, by collaborating with the Digital India Startup Hub (formerly MSH), IDMO is also expected to stimulate and develop the ecosystems of data-driven research start-ups and Al.
Problems with this draft
There are some lingering issues that should be noted, although several think tanks have expressed concerns about the project, and the government is very likely to take these concerns into consideration. For example, the document does not specify what would happen to other portals with similar goals or how they would combine, although it stresses the need for a single platform to access all government data.
For example, the Open Government Data Portal (OGP) is already managed by the National Computing Center (NIC) below MeitY. The National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP)19 on NITI Ayog also offers a platform to access this data.
States like Rajasthan and Karnataka also have their own versions of these portals, known respectively as Portal Jan Soochna and the Mahiti Kanaja Portal. It remains to be seen how the administration intends to group everything together or whether it will take care to avoid confusion. Furthermore, no guidelines have been established to prevent duplicity of effort.
The document also includes the development of datasets that would be available to Indian researchers and start-ups. However, it should be noted that he adds that the IDMO would be responsible for deciding whether requests for the use of data are legitimate and genuine.
Furthermore, it does not provide any guidelines that IDMO must follow with respect to operations, accountability or transparency.
This will obscure clarity around the operationalization of IDMO, including providing rationales for approving or rejecting requests, which could therefore have a detrimental effect on people’s trust in its functionality.