From transforming development initiatives to improving transparency, Big Data analytics could have a major impact on the way the government in India works. Comment? (15 Marks)

Mentors Comment:

  • The role and discussion on big data have been increasing day by day and it has been made more important after B N Srikrishna report on data protection and privacy. The question revolves around the big data and its impact on governance in India with development initiatives and improving transparency being the keywords.
  • Start the answer by introducing big data and its genesis and importance today.
  • Then jump to the main answer which will discuss why the government needs big data and how big data can help India, especially with development initiatives and transparency. Data accuracy, targeting actual beneficiary section in the society, knowing their needs and exact problems will help govt in forming accurate policies. Real-time data assimilation will help in transparency as well as knowing who is framing the policies for whom.
  • Discuss some concerns and challenges like aadhaar leakage, privacy issues, conversion of legacy data into new systems, different requirements of businesses and governments for big data, etc. Don’t end the answer without providing some steps that governments should take to make the usage of big data for the better.
  • Mention Open Government Data Platform ( )in your answer. It’s an important aspect of big data started by GoI. Also, read about the initiative.


Big data is data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing application software is inadequate to deal with them. The data could be from social networks, web server logs, satellite imagery, banking transactions, MP3s of rock music, the content of web pages, scans of government documents, GPS trails and so on. It answers specific questions such as the need of the customers, their opinions and their conditions.

The impact of big data on governments is quite a unique and less explored territory. Big data can go a long way in the way the government in India works. Some of the impacts are:

  • Big Data and associated analytics are beneficial in various areas, such as targeting healthcare delivery; efficient supply chain management; enabling security to individuals and society at large, etc.
  • Presently, there is the presence of information asymmetry on key issues like poverty level or formal/informal employment data. 
  • Earlier decision were made from empirical evidence, experience and intuitions.
  • Hence policies do not have the desired effect on the targeted citizens.
  • However, now the government can back big data to solve this challenge. 
  • Big data will impact on how decisions are made and who gets to make them. 
  • Evidence-based decision making will not only transform development initiatives but will also improve transparency.
  • Trends from big data in formal employment generations will help formulate skill development policies.
  • Similarly, data on dropout students’ backgrounds will help develop new and focused initiatives.
  • Data from private hospitals on treatments will help in more fund allocations to lifestyle healthcare by governments.
  • Already Finance Ministry is using big data in gathering trends of tax collection for direct as well as indirect taxes and using this data for better policymaking, like changes in tax brackets of items in GST.
  • Big data can be used in analyzing migration patterns, which in the long run, will help labor reforms, subsidies, welfare programs, etc.
  • Transforming government programmes informed policymaking and empowering citizens, improving transparency and enabling the participation of all stakeholders can be achieved.
  • The Open Government Data Platform initiative is a welcome start in opening up public data for use by analysts, researchers, and practitioners. 
  • Big Data can have a big impact only if used on a massive scale—with safeguards—by governments for the delivery of public goods and services.


  • Governments do differ from businesses in terms of goals, mission and decision making.
  • Therefore what suits businesses might not necessarily suit the government.
  • The government has an enormous amount of data in legacy databases and forms that need to be curated and migrated for new-age analytics tools.
  • Sharing data between departments and across ministries is a challenge, given the jurisdictional boundaries that exist.
  • The leakage data from Aadhar shows the inexperience of governments in handling big data.
  • While the privacy of data is important for both businesses and government, public trust in government is particularly important.
  • Hence, any breach of confidentiality regarding data that is collected and processed by the government could have serious ramifications. 

Way Forward:

  • Formulate a comprehensive Big Data Programme across Central and state government ministries/departments with help from industry, academic and research institutions. 
  • Importance should be on data protection and privacy regulations and guidelines as mentioned in the BN Srikrishna committee.
  • It is key that user consent is retained even for big data where the end use of such data is government.

The time of big data has come. The key to a balanced use of big data would be to protect the privacy of individuals while simultaneously stimulating innovation in India through governance.

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