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Forging a Social Contract for Data

Context

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) released the Draft Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022 for public consultation.

Relevance

GS-II: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Objectives of the Draft Bill
  • Features of the Draft Bill
  • Shortcomings of the Draft Bill
  • What more is needed?
  • Way Forward

Objectives of the Bill

  • Aims at providing a robust framework for utilization of public sector data.
  • Help in informed decision making.
  • Improve governance and grassroot service delivery.
  • Improve accessibility of digital innovations.
  • Maximize the accessibility of Non-Personal Data (NPD) available with public sectors.

Features of the Draft Bill

  • GovTech 3.0 approach – unlocking the potential of public sector data which is an upgrade to the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2012.
  • Harnesses data-based intelligent governance and economic development.
  • Ensuring greater awareness among citizens about Open Data and increase their participation and engagement.
  • Approved data inventories will be federated into a government wide searchable database.
  • Adheres to NDSAP paradigm of treating government agencies as ‘owners’ of data sets they have collected.

Shortcomings of the Draft Bill

  • Silence on norms, rules, and mechanisms that achieve the vision of data-supported social transformation.
  • Ethical and Procedural dilemmas in balancing Right to Information and Right to Privacy.
  • Anonymised data sets pose privacy risks during downstream processing of data.
  • Lack of Trusteeship paradigm as recommended by the MEITY Committee which can lead to lack of public consultation and accountability during data sharing and use.
  • Data Licensing might suffer due to unilateral privileges to government agencies.

What more is needed?

  • Attention to data quality and licensing regime which should not hamper the data accessibility for non-commercial use.
  • Public Sector data must be protected from the BigTech Companies for economic benefit without sufficient accountability.
  • Policymakers must be in tune with the use of data for governance both in public and private sectors.
  • Learnings of European Union must be used as a model for drafting data laws where EU has created data sharing spaces for important sectors like health.
  • Creation of right conditions for voluntary data sharing.
  • Creation of a National Personal Data Authority who would be the custodian of public data and prevents its misuse.

Way Forward

A Social Contract for data can be drafted where the data of citizen is treated as social commons, government must be the custodian of the data and promotes its constructive use and democratization of data sets with accountability. Data Opportunity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution must be ceased by India via critical frameworks of regulations that optimize usage of data.

Source – The Hindu

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September 2022
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