UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 26 March 2022

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FORGING A SOCIAL CONTRACT FOR DATA

What the article is about?

  • Talks about the prospects and concerns associated with the draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022

Syllabus: GS-II Government Policies and Interventions; GS-III Cyber Security, IT and Computers

Draft India Data Accessibility and Use Policy 2022:

  • The Draft Policy aims at providing a robust scaffolding for harnessing public sector data for informed decision-making, citizen-centric delivery of public services, and economy-wide digital innovation.
  • Specifically, it seeks to maximise access to and use of quality non-personal data (NPD) available with the public sector, overcoming a number of historical bottlenecks:
    • slow progress on the Open Government Data (OGD) platform,
    • fragmentation of data sets into departmental silos,
    • absence of data anonymisation tools,
    • insufficient attention to the development of data stewardship models; and
    • lack of data quality standards, licensing, and valuation frameworks to support data-sharing. 

Concerns:

  • Privacy: India does not have a data protection law (Data Protection Bill) that can provide accountability and remedy for privacy violations such as coercive and excessive data collection or data breaches.
  • Transparency: While adopting the language of open data it strays from its core principle of providing transparency of the Government towards its citizens.
  • Perverse Revenue Objective: The second issue is that the policy bypasses parliament as it contemplates large scale data sharing and enrichment that will be borne from public funds.
  • Federalism: The policy, even though it notes that State governments will be, “free to adopt portions of the policy,” does not specify how such freedom will be achieved.
  • Lack of Clarity on Definitions for Key Concepts: New concepts introduced by the Policy have been defined in a vague and ambiguous manner which opens them up to misinterpretation.

Way Out:

  • What we need is a new social contract for data whereby:
    • a) the social commons of data are governed as an inappropriate commons that belong to all citizens;
    • b) the government is the custodian or trustee with the fiduciary responsibility to promote data use for the public good; and
    • c) democratisation of data value is ensured through accountable institutional mechanisms for data governance. 



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