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MeitY draft data policy to make govt data accessible; considers monetisation

On Monday, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) published a draft data policy for public consultation, “Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy 2022”, that aims to enhance access, quality, and use of data, in line with the current and emerging technology needs of the decade.

The draft policy document states that all data collected, generated, and stored by all government ministries and department will be open and shareable apart from certain exceptions.

“Minimally processed datasets shall be made available freely. Only detailed datasets that have undergone value addition/transformation and qualify for monetisation may be priced appropriately,” the document stated.

MeitY will set up the India Data Office (IDO), an agency with the objective to streamline and consolidate — data access and sharing of public data repositories across the government and other stakeholders. Every Ministry/Department shall have Data Management Units headed by Chief Data Officers which will work closely with India Data Office for ensuring implementation of the Data Accessibility & Use Policy.

And a regulatory authority, the Indian Data Council (IDC) will be set up with an objective of undertaking tasks that requires deliberations across Ministries, Departments and, State Governments. The IDC will comprise of India Data Officer and Chief Data Officers of Departments of Government of India and State Governments.

The IDC’s tasks will shall include but not limited to defining frameworks for defining High Value Datasets (HVD), finalizing Data standards and Metadata standards as also reviewing the implementation of the policy. The nomination of Departments and State Governments in India Data Council shall be on rotation with a tenure of 2 years for one Department.

The IDO will coordinate closely with line ministries, states and other schematic programs to identify and accelerate access to HVD housed with these custodians.

Through the IDO, stakeholders including researchers, start-ups, enterprises, individuals and government departments will be able to access enriched data through mechanisms for data licensing, sharing, and valuation within the overall framework of data security and privacy.

“The core objective of this policy seems to be purely revenue generation. It lacks clarity on a number of things such as how a high-value dataset will be defined. We all have seen what happened when the government tried to sell vehicular registration data and the policy had to be rolled back because of misuse,” said Apar Gupta, executive director at the Internet Freedom Foundation.

All government ministries/departments will adopt the HVD framework to identify, publish and maintain their high-value data sets. MeitY through the IDO will lend advisory support to ministries/departments to accelerate access to High-Value Datasets.

“These standards would be compliant with the interoperability framework, policy on open standards, institutional mechanisms for formulation of domain-specific metadata and other relevant guidelines published on the e-gov standards portal,” the document states.

Also, data standards that cut across domains will be finalised by the IDC and, once done, adopted by all government ministries and departments concerned.

“If one goes by various reports, the government might be contemplating scrapping the data protection Bill itself in its current form, which, after the Joint Parliamentary Committee report in December, would have needed to include a non-personal data protection framework also,” said Salman Waris, a partner at Delhi-based law firm TechLegis.

“The government’s efforts are towards monetisation, which itself follows from the NITI Aayog’s thinking that all non-personal data is national resource. This policy may also see a big pushback from big tech firms as their business models are based on monetising this kind of large-scale data,” he added.

The document mentions the time period of the government holding datasets as well.

“Each central ministry or department shall define its data retention period for specific datasets and ensure compliance with the same while managing storage and sharing of datasets,” the document states.

“A broad set of guidelines would be standardised and provided to help ministries and departments define their data retention policy,” it adds.

“We welcome the initiative by the government to seek public comments on the Draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy, 2022, which aims to enhance data access to startups through mechanisms such as data licensing, develop metadata standards, as well as prescribe norms for data security and privacy,” said Kazim Rizvi, founder of policy thinktank, The Dialogue.

CT Bureau

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