India data accessibility and usage policy: welcome step, but cybersecurity issues need to be addressed, experts say

The government’s project on “Indian Data Accessibility and Use Policy” is an initiative to ensure more effective data-driven governance paradigms for better and broader governance, say veterans and experts from industry.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) released a draft policy on Monday which proposes a framework for government-to-government data sharing and proposes that all data from each government department or its organization are open and shareable by default, with certain runners. It proposes to make certain data available for R&D and innovation purposes. “Minimally processed datasets should be made available free of charge to promote innovation and R&D…for restricted access data sharing in accordance with the licensing model adopted, the pricing of the datasets will be decided by the owner /ministry or government agency and must be notified in a transparent manner,” the draft states.

The draft was developed in consultation with various stakeholders, including academia, industry and government, and is currently undergoing public consultation.

Build ambitions

“As a matter of principle, it’s something we advocate that if we’re building artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for the country, access to government open data is very critical. But of course privacy has to be at the heart of it all… it cannot compromise an individual’s privacy. India cannot build AI ambitions without data,” said Sangeeta Gupta, Senior Vice President and Director of Nasscom’s strategy. Activity area.

Although Nasscom goes through the whole document for a better understanding, she said the general understanding is that it is about generating non-personal data such as traffic data that can be anonymized to create an algorithm of AI that companies like Google or Uber are already using. to alert where there are traffic jams or which is the best route to take.

The National Computing Center (NIC), under the MeitY and other government platforms, already have portals like and tons of data is already available there, she added.

‘thin patch of ice’

According to Pavan Duggal, a computer law expert and Supreme Court lawyer, the government’s intention is to ensure the maximum use of data for the greater good.

However, he also said: “The proposed policy could also open the doors to government mining individual data. It is a thin sheet of ice to walk on, without the proper legal and political foundations being addressed. This policy, if implemented in its current form, without an enabling legislative framework, could open up issues of violation of citizen data confidentiality and privacy.

He said cybersecurity issues have not been addressed by the policy. This could have consent-related ramifications from the users’ perspective. “This policy could be in direct conflict with the provisions of the Indian cyber law and the rules and regulations made thereunder. It could also compromise the exercise of due diligence by the government as an intermediary,” Duggal said.

Since India is already drafting a new personal data protection law, he added that it would have been much better to wait for the arrival of the new law before putting such a policy in place. “The urgency of putting in place such a policy is not understood, in the context of the current realities on the ground,” he said.

Social transformation

According to MeitY, the goal of the policy is to “radically transform” India’s ability to harness public sector data for large-scale social transformation. It will apply to all data and information created, generated and collected by the government directly or through authorized ministries, departments and agencies.

All data from every ministry, department and organization will be open and shareable by default, with some exceptions, as per the draft policy which outlines an institutional framework involving the “Indian Data Bureau”, the Indian Data Council and data units. data management as key elements, the detailed document says, adding that states will be free to adopt applicable provisions and protocols.

Published on

February 23, 2022

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