Digital India Initiatives

Issues with the Gopalakrishnan Committee Report

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Personal data and non-personal data

Mains level : Paper 3- Making open data-society by sharing making open the data collected by the government

The article highlights the importance of non-personal data collected by the government and lack of any reference to it in the Gopalakrishnan Committee report.

Background

  • The Committee of Experts on the Non-Personal Data Governance Framework headed by K Gopalakrishnan has recommended making privately held non-personal data “open”.
  •  This has raised concerns about state interference in the private data ecoystem.

Importance of data collected by government agencies

  • The report is a missed opportunity to address the governance frameworks around data created by government agencies.
  • Some of the most important non-personal data sets are held by the government, or result from taxpayer funding.
  • Such data can be useful in either framing public policy or creating and providing new services.

Why government data should be open to citizens: 5 Reasons

  • First, the state should be transparent about information that it has. This will improve accountability.
  • Second, if taxpayer money has funded any of the data sets, then it is an obligation of the state to return the fruits of that funding to the taxpayer.
  • Third, by permitting the reuse of government data sets, we avoid the need for duplication.
  • Fourth, government data sets, curated according to publicly verified standards, can lead to increased confidence in data quality and increased usage.
  • Finally, free flow of information can have beneficial effects on society in general.

Government policies promoting openness of data

  • The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, mandates the disclosure of government data on a suo moto basis.
  • One of the nine pillars of the Digital India Policy is “information for all”.
  • The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012 requires all non-sensitive information held by public authorities to be made publicly accessible in machine readable formats (subject to conditions).
  • The government has also set up an Open Government Data Platform to provide open access to data sets held by ministries and other agencies of the government.
  • Various States have also either created their own data portals or have provided data sets to the Open Government Data Platform.

Challenges in making the data open to society

  • There are two reasons for our failure to create an open data-based society.
  • The first is lack of clarity in some of the provisions of the NDSAP or the relevant implementation guidelines.
  • The second is the inability to enforce guidelines appropriately.
  • Data sets released by governments are often inconsistent, incomplete, outdated, published in non-machine readable or inconsistent formats, include duplicates, and lack quality (or any) metadata, thereby reducing re-usability.

Issues with Gopalakrishnana Committee Report

  • The Gopalakrishnan Committee could have evaluated what is going wrong with existing policies and practice pertaining to government data.
  • The report is a missed opportunity to address the governance frameworks around non-personal data sets in a country created by government agencies, or those resulting from taxpayer money.
  • The report largely focuses on the dangers posed by data collection by private sector entities.
  • This has raised concerns about state interference in the private data ecoystem.
  • Many of the concerns that should be addressed in the report that are central to the governance of the data ecosystem have remained in the background.
  • For instance, India’s cybersecurity framework continues to be inadequate, while even the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Committee report of 2018 highlighted the need to restrict the growing power of the state to carry out surveillance.

Consider the question “What are the key recommendation made by the Gopalakrishnan Committee for the regulation of non-personal data? What are the shortcomings in of the report in your opinion?”

Conclusion

Since data governance is a relatively new concept in India, the government would be better served in taking an incremental approach to any perceived problems. This should begin with reforming how the government itself deals with citizens’ data.

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