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Govt to announce new data governance framework

The Centre is set to come out with a new data governance framework to pave the way for the sharing of troves of information between government departments a plan that officials say will improve efficiency, transparency and accountability in governance.

The national data governance framework and policy, at present a draft, will lay down protocols and standards for how government institutions process, store and share data within the larger government ecosystem.

“As we are increasing the digitisation of government, we need to create a harmonised setup for the whole government for data management,” said minister of state (MoS) for electronics and information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar. “This will allow government and government departments to better design and better target efficacy of public spending programmes, be it in infrastructure or in service delivery.”

The policy will be shared for public feedback before it is finalised.

The plan itself is part of a larger focus on data-related protocols, processes and laws the government is working on. These, Chandrasekhar added, include the data governance framework, a cybersecurity policy, a data protection law, and the IT Act. “There needs to be an overall approach as to how laws are made; this framework lays out the architecture and defines institutionally the procedure for data collection storage access and anonymisation (with respect to the information contained within the government ecosystem),” he said.

In the future, there will be more legislation, rules and protocols that will guide various parts of the government and research eco-system, he said. “It will lay the foundational architecture for the data economy.”

The draft policy, seen by HT, elaborates on the overall objective of the new framework. “[It will aim to ensure] greater citizen awareness, participation, and engagement with open data, increase the availability of datasets of national importance, and identify datasets suitable for sharing and improve overall compliance to secure data sharing and privacy policies and standards.”

It will also be the “first step in catalysing the era of Digital Government”, which will provide “greater scope for better, more informed decision making… while adhering to the highest data protection standards and commitment to the principles of data privacy”.

According to Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) trustee Apar Gupta, the government has already floated a Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy 2022, which was uploaded in February. “It seems like a broader policy for data governance as has been outlined in sections 1 and 2 [of the new policy], but the sections forward are similar to the policy draft shared in February. But it is not clear how the two policies will interrelate,”

There was a massive pushback against previous draft accessibility policy, Gupta added, as it seemed to monetise data, a clause that was later removed.

Chandrasekhar said that while there were similarities between the earlier accessibility policy, the new policy expands the institutions to manage data governance. “The earlier policy was misconstrued as a monetisation policy, but after the feedback, the policy has evolved… This is not about data use, as much as it is for data management,” he said.

A core component of the data governance framework will be the formation of an India Data Management Office (IDMO) under the IT ministry. “IDMO will be responsible for developing rules, standards, and guidelines under the National Data Governance Framework that will be published periodically,” according to the policy.

“IDMO shall formulate all data/datasets/metadata rules, standards, and guidelines in consultation with ministries, state governments, and industry. IDMO will conduct at least two semi-annual consultations and report carding for this purpose with representation from state governments and industry,” it added.

The draft policy adds that IDMO’s mandate will be to maximise data-driven governance, improve access to and quality of non-personal data, and foster an ecosystem of data and AI-based innovation.

To be sure, personal data stored with the government will not be a part of this policy – that is likely to be governed by provisions of the data protection law that is yet to be finalised. The governance framework will deal with all “non-personal data, anonymised data and information created/generated/collected/archived by the Government of India directly or authorised agencies of various ministries / departments /organisations / agencies and autonomous bodies,” the policy said.

The framework proposes that all “government ministries/departments create detailed, searchable data inventories with clear metadata and data dictionaries for government-to-government data access” and a standard mechanism for inter-government data access will then be developed.

The framework will include data retention rules, which will define a set of guidelines that look at “how long information must be kept and how to dispose of the information when it’s no longer needed”.

State governments, it added, “will be free to adopt provisions of the policy and rules, standards, and protocols as applicable.” Hindustan Times

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