Data divide between state, citizens is bad for democracy 

Source: The post is based on an article “Data divide between state, citizens is bad for democracy” published in The Indian Express on 15th Apr 22. 

Syllabus: GS2 – Design and implementation of policies and programmes; and Governance

Relevance: Public Data 

News: The Economic Survey focused on improving the quality and quantity of data, so that it can be used for better and quicker assessment of the state of the economy.

While amassing of data is no doubt essential, facilitating its access to the citizens is critical for a healthy and informed public discourse on issues of policy relevance.

Importance of Public Data 

It can improve people’s life in myriad ways. For example, data on migrants collected during the pandemic can be used for effective public policy on migrants. 

It can lead to informed public discourse. It is critical for accountable and transparent governance in any democracy. For example, The Right to Information has been a useful instrument. 

It can help tackle corruption and better targeting of beneficiaries.

How is the citizen’s access to data is limited in India? 

The political factors prevent its dissemination of data among the public. There are fears that access to data can increase the accountability of the government and create a roadblock in the administration 

The autonomy of statistical agencies is compromised for immediate political gains. For example, data from the consumption survey 2017-18 has not yet been released. Similarly, the first PLFS 2017-18) was released only after the 2019 general election.

The Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) has not been seriously treated.

The Water and Sanitation Survey data 2018 has not been released. 

The India government has been working upon the UIDAI and JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar -Mobile). Huge amounts of data has been collected under JAM (Jandhan – Aadhaar – Mobile), thereby breaching privacy of the citizens.

The government has collected an enormous amount of data during the pandemic and immunisation process. However, the government has suppressed information on pandemic induced deaths. 

What are the impacts of inadequate data access to citizens? 

The data divide between the state and its citizens is a potential threat to the smooth functioning of a democracy 

It will not lead to full realization of the potential of modern technology. 

The increased gathering of data and lack of sharing with citizens increases chances of the surveillance state. It can lead to breach of the fundamental right to privacy of the citizens of India.  

Way Forward 

The use of data by different stakeholders will help the government in the improvement of the governance.  

The statistical wings of the government should be made independent. It will increase the reputation and credibility.  

Source: The post is based on an article “Data divide between state, citizens is bad for democracy” published in The Indian Express on 15th Apr 22. 

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