Here’s all you need to know about India’s new draft data use policy
The government has unveiled a draft data policy for public discussions, as it looks to harness and monetize the vast amount of data collected, generated and stored by ministries and departments.
The draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022 is the third policy document in the country that deals with issues related to managing and using citizens’ data. The government had prepared the Personal Data Protection Bill a couple of years ago and is also working on a Non-Personal Data Governance Framework.
So, what’s the purpose of the latest policy document?
Perhaps the most striking feature of the latest draft is that the government can monetise the data collected by ministries and departments by sharing it with external organisations such as tech companies and startups.
The government can also monetise detailed datasets that have undergone value addition.
According to the draft, startups, other organisations, individuals and researchers will be able to access such data through licensing within the frameworks of data security and privacy.
On the flip side, big tech firms may not be very enthusiastic about this policy since their own business models are based on monetising this type of large-scale data.
How will ministries and departments share their data?
The draft policy says that each central ministry or department will have to adopt and publish its domain-specific metadata and data standards.
“These standards would be compliant with the interoperability framework, policy on open standards, institutional mechanisms for formulation of domain-specific metadata and other relevant guidelines published on the e-gov standards portal,” the document states.
What else the ministries and departments will have to do?
The draft policy says that each central ministry or department will have to define its data retention period for specific datasets and ensure compliance with the same while managing storage and sharing of datasets.
“A broad set of guidelines would be standardised and provided to help ministries and departments define their data retention policy,” it says.
Will anyone oversee such data standards?
Yes, indeed. The draft document suggests setting up a regulatory authority called the Indian Data Council (IDC) and an India Data Office (IDO) to oversee the framing and enforcing of metadata standards, respectively.
Essentially, the IDC will define frameworks to define high-value datasets, finalise data standards and metadata standards, and review policy implementation. Once the IDC finalises data standards that cut across domains, all government ministries and departments will adopt these norms.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will constitute the IDO with a view to consolidate data access and sharing of public data repositories. The IDC will comprise the IDO and data officers of five departments of central or state governments. These officers will have a tenure of two years.
Does the latest draft overlap with the other two policy documents?
It’s not clear yet. A background document for the draft policy does mention the Personal Data Protection Bill and the Non-Personal Data Governance Framework. But it doesn’t specify how some overlapping areas will be dealt with.
For instance, it is not clear how the government will deal with the issue of consent and anonymisation of a person’s data that is stored with the government. To be sure, some recent media reports have also said that the government might scrap the data protection bill in its current form.
According to Apar Gupta, executive director at the Internet Freedom Foundation, the main goal of this policy seems to be revenue generation and it lacks clarity on several things such as how a high-value dataset will be defined.
“We all have seen what happened when the government tried to sell vehicular registration data and the policy had to be rolled back because of misuse,” Gupta said in a Business Standard report.
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