An open data policy won’t work without earnest implementation

News: On 22 February, India’s ministry of electronics and information technology (MEITY) released its draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022 for public consultation.

Read – About the Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy, 2022
Need for bringing the draft Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022

Utility in delivery of public services: The data generated through routine administrative processes is important for the better delivery of public services.

Already in practice in other countries: Such policies exist in many countries being used for an efficient use of such data in improving services.

Demands of academia and other stakeholders: i.e., large volumes of such data have remained unutilized.

What are the challenges associated with the policy?
Read – Issues related to draft data accessibility policy

Conflict of interest: There are changes of misuse of such data for commercial or political purposes. It is because data is “the new oil”. Thus, the monetization of valuable public sector data without adequate safeguards can be counter-productive.

Issues of data integrity: As public data is a by-product of government administration; its quality is only as good as that of the administration.

Administrative control over data has also been used to thwart attempts by users and citizens to obtain data for public use. For example, the Right to Information (RTI) Act, has been diluted over the past decade like many RTI activists losing their lives.

What are the benefits associated with policy?

It can lead to realizing the potential of this large volume of data. It can be shared across various ministries and between central and state governments. It can be used to encourage better utilization of large-scale data collected by the government machinery.

Public data can be complementary to a systematic evaluation of administrative functioning and independent surveys and research.

Challenges in using public data as complementary to other evaluating measures

Public data is being used to discredit independent credible surveys: For example, Data from the EPFO and E-Shram portal used to argue that jobs are being generated, as against separate evidence from the Periodic Labour Force Surveys of the National Statistical Office (NSO).

Public data used to suit a political narrative: Assault has been made on NSO data on open defecation, access to potable water, and so on. Even a basic exercise such as our decennial population census has become political, e.g., It is being linked with a National Population Register.

What are the suggestions to tackle issues?

The data accessibility-and-use policy has to be completed by a comprehensive data protection framework.

The data integrity: Our statistical system needs strengthening. Public data can be verified independently, i.e., open databases for public scrutiny and academic analysis. For example, social audits being used in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Its social audit has not only raised the quality of data available on this job programme’s functioning, but also helped improve the scheme itself.

Protection from unnecessary attacks: It is needed to be protected from the very institution that generates it, i.e., administrative machinery as well as the political leadership.

Source: The post is based on an article “An open data policy won’t work without earnest implementation” published in the Live mint” on 11th March 2022.

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