From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : About the database
Mains level : Need for a centralized welfare database
Central Welfare Database of Citizens
- The Economic Survey 2018-19 pitched for setting up a central welfare database of citizens — by merging different data maintained by separate Ministries and departments.
- These recommendations come at a time when India is working on finalising its personal data protection policy.
- The principle is that most data are generated by the people, of the people and should be used for the people.
- This database can be tapped for enhancing ease of living for citizens, particularly the poor.
Data to be included
- The datasets talked about inclusion of administrative data such as birth and death records, pensions, tax records, marriage records; survey data such as census data, national sample survey data; transactions data such as e-national agriculture market data, UPI data, institutional data and public hospital data on patients.
Why such centralized database?
- The governments already held a rich repository of administrative, survey, institutional and transactions data about citizens, but these data were scattered across numerous government bodies.
- Merging these distinct datasets would generate multiple benefits with the applications being limitless.
- The government could utilise the information embedded in these distinct datasets to enhance ease of living for citizens, enable truly evidence-based policy, improve targeting in welfare schemes, uncover unmet needs, and integrate fragmented markets.
- This will bring greater accountability in public services and generate greater citizen participation in governance, etc.
Need for stringent safeguards
- It also recommended granting access to select database to private sector for a fee, given that stringent technological mechanisms exist to safeguard data privacy.
- The Survey noted that there had been some discussions around the “linking” of datasets, primarily through the seeding of an Aadhaar number across databases such as PAN database, bank accounts and mobile numbers.
- However, it clarified that the linking is “one-way.” For example, banks can use the tokenized Aadhaar number to combine duplicate records and weed out benami accounts.
- This does not mean that the UIDAI or government can read the bank account information or other data related to the individual.
- The Survey pointed out that governments can create data as a public good within the legal framework of data privacy.
- Care must also be taken not to impose the “elite’s preference of privacy on the poor, who care for a better quality of living the most.