Widening data divide between state and citizens

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : JAM

Mains level : Paper 2- Need for data sharing

Context

While this year’s Economic Survey focuses on improving the quality and quantity of data for better and quicker assessment of the state of the economy, it pays little attention to access to the data by citizens, ignoring the criticality of data for a healthy and informed public discourse on issues of policy relevance.

Strengthening data architecture

  • The government has been proactively strengthening the data architecture for tackling corruption and better targeting of beneficiaries.
  • Since 2014, the scope of UIDAI has seen a huge expansion.
  • JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) has private details of citizens.
  • The government is sufficiently empowered to collect and use information about its citizens touching all the spheres of their life.
  • Along with traditional instruments such as the Census, sample surveys and registers of various departments, the government is now armed with real-time data.

Erosion in citizens’ right to access data and widening information gap

  • Delayed release of survey data: The citizen’s right to access relevant data for quality public discussion seems to be gradually eroding.
  •  In this process, the government has refused to hold itself accountable.
  • This is evident from repeated events of delayed release of various survey data.
  • For example, data from the consumption survey 2017-18 has not yet been released.
  •  Similarly, the first Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS 2017-18) was released only after the 2019 general election.
  • Undermining of scientific data: Further, instead of relying on the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), a systematically designed survey for estimation of industrial sector GDP, the government has started to depend on self-reported, unverified data submitted to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs since 2011.
  • Now that ASI is nearly redundant for official estimation purposes, the future of this database is uncertain.
  • Another example of undermining the scientific database is the delay in the release of Water and Sanitation Survey data 2018. 
  • The information gaps in the area of migration are well documented.
  • Information gap: While the JAM architecture and pandemic induced tracking tools allow for the mapping of individuals, researchers and the civil society do not have access to that information, which is useful to ascertain the level and prevalence of migration across regions within the country.

Conclusion

This data divide between the state and its citizens is a potential threat to the smooth functioning of a democracy. Without bridging this data gap, the scope of modern technology for tracking development cannot be realised.

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