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Govt open data policy on data monetisation must be encouraged

The government’s open data policy, which recommends monetisation of data, must be encouraged, and the country needs to allow for commercialization of data, S (Kris) Gopalakrishnan, Infosys co-founder and the chairman of the non-personal data (NPD) committee, said in an interview.

Since the legal framework around data is evolving, India must provide leadership to balance private and public interests and spur economic activity around data, Gopalakrishnan said.

“As long as citizens’ data privacy is protected and citizens receive better services in future, we need to allow for commercialization,” Gopalakrishnan said.

“This is sort of like travelling in a private car and public transportation – we share our private space for better economics. I am happy that select government data is available for research and innovation. We need to continue this process and make more data available with suitable safeguards for commercialization and better citizen services,” he added.

Gopalakrishnan said private and public interests must be balanced.

While there is a need to bolster economic activity around data, he said it was equally important to listen to concerns and try to address these or explain why certain decisions are made.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) released its draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022 for public consultation in February. The policy aims to better utilise the voluminous data that is collected by the government to provide better delivery of public services.

According to the draft document, all central and state government bodies will have to compulsorily share data with each other to create a common “searchable database”.

While minimally processed data sets shall be made freely available, detailed data sets that have undergone value addition, transformation and qualify for monetisation may be priced appropriately, it said.

Privacy activists have since raised concerns, especially around privacy of citizen data.

They have also flagged issues with citizens’ data being misused to further a commercial or political agenda.

On large companies being apprehensive about data localization norms under the Data Protection Bill, Gopalakrishnan said “data about Indians belong to Indians and the economic benefits from this must accrue to Indians.”

On a bubble forming in the startup ecosystem, he said corporate and startup valuations will fluctuate and that these fluctuations are part of every cycle, especially in the backdrop of the current uncertainties around the Covid-19 pandemic, conflict in Ukraine, extreme events caused by climate change, higher fuel prices, among others.

“There will be successes and failures in business, riskier the business, failures could be higher,” he said. “We need to learn from these and move on. Given that we are in the age of social media, both success and failure tend to get picked up and highlighted more and faster. This is the key difference (in entrepreneurship style) from 30-40 years back.”

Gopalakrishnan was in Chennai on Saturday for the launch of the Sudha Gopalakrishnan Brain Centre at IIT-Madras to power a global project to map the human brain at the cellular and connectivity levels, with a focus on high-resolution brain imaging.

At the event, he spoke extensively about the need for more investment in startups that are science-focused.

The Centre, which is supported by Kris Gopalakrishnan and wife Sudha Gopalakrishnan, has developed a high-throughput histology pipeline that processes whole human brains into high-resolution digital images. Using this technology platform, the Centre is imaging post-mortem human brains of different types and ages, IIT-Madras said in a statement.

“Our family philanthropy will continue to support entrepreneurship and scientific research. Typically, we invest about 50% of the earnings in each of these,” Gopalakrishnan said. “Deep tech startups require patient capital since they take longer to become sustainable businesses. We have limited funds investing in deep tech startups.” Planet Concerns

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