Govt Plans Ways to Share Free Data With Public

An agenda note with differences between data that can and cannot be shared is being prepared The government is devising ways to ramp up online dissemination of data and make more data available to public for free, an effort that is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Digital India initiative.
The ministry of statistics and programme implementation is in the process of drafting an agenda note in which it has differentiated between data that can and cannot be shared on its website, officials said. It is planning to make the “sharable data“ available to everyone for free, in contrast to the current practice of charging a nominal fee for accessing data at the unit level, they said.

At present, the government charges fees for providing data from the national sample surveys, Annual Survey of Industries and the economic census. This goes against the spirit of the open data policy, officials said.

An internal committee of the ministry had earlier suggested continuing with the existing system of pricing of data but many officials said that it is taxpayers' money that is used for surveys and data collection and hence, the government should not charge fees from people who wish to access that data. The government earns about Rs.7 crore a year from the fees.

“We want every ministry to have a negative list wherein they specify the kind of data that they don't want to share because of its strategic importance and confidentiality,“ said an official privy to the development.

Another official said that once the ministry itself draws clear lines on what data can be shared, it will recommend the same to other ministries.

The statistics ministry, on its part, does not plan to share worksheets on which it makes calculations and estimates. Besides, unit level data where names of individuals have to be disclosed will be off limits. “We identify units with the help of geospatial data which is many a time sensitive from security point of view,“ the official said.

The agenda note that the ministry plans to submit to National Statistical Commission chairman Pronab Sen is also likely to mention the mode of dissemination of information and access ­ restricted or otherwise.

This means that though users of data will not have to pay any fees, the government will ask for users' details to keep tabs on who is accessing what kind of data.

Business Standard, New Delhi, 16th Oct. 2015

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