India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has published a draft policy, called India Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022, that envisages making government data easily accessible and shareable, subject to certain restrictions.
The government has invited various stakeholders including academia, industry, and government official to provide suggestions on how the policy would help in setting up a robust data-sharing framework for the next decade in consonance with India’s efforts to rapidly digitalise its economy.
The last date of submission for feedback is March 18, 2022.
One of the highlights of the draft is the intention to set up a regulatory authority called the Indian Data Council (IDC) and an agency called the India Data Office (IDO) which would, respectively, oversee the framing of metadata standards and enforcement of policies.
In a background paper on the draft policy which was released simultaneously, MeitY noted that with digitalisation and online engagement, the volume of data is increasing exponentially, “providing opportunities for better governance, service delivery and innovation”.
MeitY also noted that the number of active internet users in India is expected to reach 900 million by 2025 and the number of 5G subscribers would reach 330 million by 2026 with an average monthly data consumption of 40 gigabytes per user.
The ministry expects this to fuel not only the generation of new data but also of citizen-centric services dependent on the data.
Data from all government entities “shall be open and shareable by default”, subject to certain restrictions, the policy paper said.
The restrictions include if the data is categorised under a negative list of databases that won’t be shared and if it is categorised under restricted access and can be shared with only trusted users under a controlled environment.
The draft noted that by default all data generated and collected by the central government institutions will be covered under the proposed guidelines.
Minimally processed datasets would be made available at no cost “to promote innovation, research and development”.
Processed data would be valued accordingly by the departments who own the data, the draft said.
All ministries and government departments will be given anonymisation tools and decision-making frameworks to “assist data officers in managing data sharing requests”.
Along with anonymisation, a data-sharing toolkit would also be provided to “help assess and optimally manage risk associated with data sharing and release”.
Presenting the rationale behind the draft policy, the background paper noted that the private sector “remain early adopters of technology and digital products”.
However, it said, the thrust towards e-governance has meant that data is “increasingly” central to fundamental citizen services.
The draft said the private sector “relies on high-value public data repositories in sectors such as health, geospatial mapping, and energy to successfully inject innovation and propel a data-driven economy".
A “future-forward data policy framework” should engage with data from multiple sources (public and private) to make it accessible through government-to-government (G2G), government-to-business (G2B), business-to-government (G2B) and business-to-business (B2B) channels.
The document said the principles of data policy, security and “its implications on the safety of the data are tantamount to responsible technology and innovation, instilling trust in government data fiduciaries to adopt a rights-based approach to data sharing”.
The draft policy would develop a framework that would enable more informed policymaking and efficient public services, it added.