Thursday, July 21, 2011

National Data Access and Sharing Policy Of India

The news of establishment of “Data Access Platform” by India in collaboration with US is welcome move. However, this is not a “Positive Policy Decision” as India is doing nothing more than as required under various Laws of India.

For instance, the “Current Public Records” are required to be made available to the general public in an electronic form as per the mandates of Right to Information Act 2005. Similarly, the “Non Current Records” are required to be made available to the public at large in an electronic form under the Public Records Act, 1993. Add to this the limited mandates of E-Governance as per the Information Technology Act 2000.

If at all India was not doing the proposed action that was due to the wide spread corruption and lack of transparency and accountability in India. So what India is proposing to do now is not a step taken to “Empower” the Indian citizens as a “Policy Matter” but under the “Obligations of various Laws” that Indian Government was not following.

However, at least Indian Government has accepted its obligations of “Electronic Services Delivery” to the extent of providing information relevant to general public in an electronic form and this is a good step in the right direction.

In the past, the Department of Science and Technology had shown its willingness to frame a “National Data Access and Sharing Policy”. The aim of such intended Policy was to change the way the Government maintains and shares information. However, the Policy faced criticism from several Agencies and Ministries, including Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs. Now the Policy is pending review before the Cabinet.

The Policy, if implemented, may compel Departments and Publicly Funded Bodies to scan their records, review the kind of data they maintain, and release this for public consumption, provided such information doesn’t compromise security and strategic needs. If a Government Department doesn’t share information, it will have to give reasons why it isn’t doing so.

Besides “Legal Obligations”, the proposed Policy is also “Mandatorily Required” to comply with the “Conditions of Loan” recently granted by the World Bank to ensure Electronic Services Delivery in India. India has to “Prescribe” such a Policy as per the Terms and Conditions of such loan.

However, issues like Civil Liberties, Cyber Security, Digital Preservation, Privacy Protection, etc are still not addressed by India and this may hinder the proposed Policy. Let us see how this Policy may take a shape.

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