From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NDSAP
Mains level : Paper 2-Sharing of public data
Open access to public data is essential for policy analysis and evidence-based policymaking. Policy framework for sharing of public data by the government is also looked into in this article.
How Open Data Charter came about
- Open-source software enthusiasts and civil society activists in the U.S. and U.K. came with a demand to unlock the data gathered by governments for unfettered access and reuse by citizens.
- Data collected at public expense must belong to the people. This is the principle for the Open Data Charter adopted by 22 countries since 2015.
- It calls upon governments to disseminate public data in open digital formats.
- In return, the Charter argues, governments can expect “innovative, evidence-based policy solutions”.
Steps toward making data accessible-NDSAP
- The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) was adopted in 2012.
- It was a step towards making non-sensitive government data accessible online.
- The main thrust of the policy is to “promote data sharing and enable access to Government of India owned data for national planning, development and awareness”.
- The implementation guidelines for NDSAP include ideals such as “openness, flexibility, transparency, quality” of data.
- It aims to facilitate “access to Government of India shareable data in machine-readable form”.
- The guidelines prescribe open digital formats suitable for analysis and dissemination.
- Opaque formats such as the portable document format and the image format are discouraged.
- As part of the Open Government Data (OGD) initiative, data.gov.in was launched in 2012.
- However, the implementation has lagged far behind its stated objectives.
How data could have helped policy making in Covid pandemic
- The district-wise, demographic-wise case statistics and anonymous contact traces released in the public domain would have proved useful.
- Reliable model forecasts of disease spread and targeted regional lockdown protocols could have been generated.
- Model forecasts have limitations, but models without inputs from empirical data are even more unreliable.
Violation of OGD in data shared for pandemic
- Principles of OGD notwithstanding, sufficiently granular infection data are not available.
- Violating the data format guidelines, OGD portal provides COVID-19 data only as a graphic image unsuitable for any analysis.
- The Indian Council of Medical Research and mygov.in fare no better.
- They too do not publish district-wise statistics, and the available data are not in usable formats.
Examples from other countries
- The data portals of Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. present district-wise COVID-19 cases data.
- These countries also provide data about the emergent effects on mental health, jobs and education.
- According to the latest report of the Open Data Barometer, an independent group measuring the impact of open data, these nations lead the pack.
- India is a contender to reach the top bracket and not a laggard.
- The government must provide the impetus and incentive to exploit this voluminous data by invigorating the dated national data portal.
- Every department must be mandated to share substantive data respecting privacy concerns.
- The government should look within for examples of creative outcomes of opening up the database.
- Start-ups have built novel applications using Indian Railways data to provide ticket confirmation prediction and real-time train status.
Consider the question “Examine the provisions for data sharing and accessibility in India. Also, elaborate how the sharing of public data could help in policymaking.”
Sharing public data is a way to create beneficial social impact. So, the government must ensure the implementation of policy measures and encourage the analysis of public data to come at the informed policy decision.