Chennai: The Economic Survey wants the government to put in place a data infrastructure to gather, store, process and dessiminate data. Government should view data as a public good and make the necessary investments within the framework of data privacy. Government’s mantra should be utilizing data “of the people, by the people, for the people”.
“In the endeavour to create data as a public good, it is very important to consider the privacy implications and inherent fairness of data being used. The processing of data will be in compliance with accepted privacy norms and the upcoming privacy law, currently tabled in Parliament,” the survey said.
While combining data sets will itself reap rewards, the benefit is limited if data is of an uncertain quality, not amenable to easy processing etc. Harnessing data consists of four steps – gathering, storing, processing and disseminating data, each of which offers room for improvement in India.
Hence the country needs a data infrastructure.
In order to gather data, it has to be in digital format. Unless data is in a digital, machine readable format, its utility is limited. The recently launched Digitize India initiative is an ingenious solution to the tedious task of converting paper-based data into digital form.
As far as storage is concerned, public service delivery can benefit from real-time storage of data. With the widespread adoption of ICT approaches in public service delivery, real time data collection and storage is no longer an ambitious and distant dream but very much realisable, at least in select sectors and contexts.
Unleashing this potential of the deluge of data created when data is collected digitally, stored in real-time and utilised with existing data, requires skill. Governments at all administrative levels should invest in building their internal capacities to exploit data in real-time, perform analyses and translate data into meaningful information.
While every government department may have a dedicated analytics or data insights division, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology can act as nodal departments to steer such efforts at the national level.
The government may also consider opening certain kinds of data to private players with all the necessary security safeguards. Data shared with the public on the Open Government Data portal is completely anonymised and this is an effective tool to disseminate data to the public.
The private sector may be granted access to select databases for commercial use. Undoubtedly, the data revolution envisioned here is going to cost funds. Although the social benefits would far exceed the cost to the government, at least a part of the generated data should be monetised to ease the pressure on government finances. Given that the private sector has the potential to reap massive dividends from this data, it is only fair to charge them for its use.
Going forward, the data and information highway must be viewed as equally important infrastructure as the physical highways. Such a stance can help India leapfrog to utilise the benefits of technological advances for the welfare of its people, adds the survey.