How India is encouraging the use of open government data

Launched in 2012, India’s Open Government Data (OGD) platform has enabled millions of people to access government data to build new applications, services and, more recently, to train artificial intelligence (AI) models ).

Through the use of open, machine-readable formats and application programming interfaces (APIs), the platform has not only democratized access to data, but also improved transparency by allowing communities to track points data, such as those related to mortality, budget and finance. , population and geography.

Lydia Clougherty Jones, Principal Director Analyst at Gartner, said enabling public visibility and oversight of government data and information will improve citizen trust and public service delivery in India while spurring the development of new data products.

“Open data can drive digital business outcomes by providing increased access to more data from more diverse sources, providing ‘knowable’ information that would otherwise not be discoverable without the aggregation of data from multiple data sources. governmental.

“This insight can support more robust predictive analytics, while the underlying data can serve as training data for ever-more-demanding AI models while creating new economic value by potentially matching the right data to a specific use case or business outcome,” she added.

Indian software developers have leveraged the data available through the OGD platform to create applications such as the Teeka mobile app that allows citizens to track child vaccinations and the pregnancy of female family members.

Another app, Rainbow, helps farmers make informed decisions throughout the life cycle of their crops by providing information such as live market prices, dam water levels and weather updates. local.

But for India to unlock the value of its open data initiative, there is a need to focus on high-value datasets (HVDs), according to a report by the Indian National Association of Software and Services Companies. (Nasscom).

Open data can drive digital business outcomes by providing increased access to more data from more diverse sources, providing “knowable” information that would otherwise not be discoverable without the aggregation of data from multiple government data sources .

Lydia Clougherty Jones, Gartner

In the report, experts called for regular maintenance of an HVD list and robust data governance to ensure high data quality, as well as periodic updates communicated to users.

Indeed, Shally Gupta, a graduate fellow and impact maker at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), asserted that much of the data available in India is still not rich enough or of sufficient quality. “One of the hurdles India will have to overcome to gain an edge in the AI ​​race is the lack of rich and well-labeled datasets,” she said.

Gartner’s Jones said that similar to other government open data initiatives, India may also struggle to define, communicate and report on the tangible benefits of its open data initiatives. “To overcome this challenge, India could measure the success of its open data program by its ‘impacts’, not the ‘volume’ of datasets downloaded.”

Dattaraj Rao, chief data scientist at Persistent Systems, an IT consulting firm, named interoperability as another challenge. Since open data comes from multiple government organizations, he said, efforts are needed to make it consumable through a single interface. “Having standardized ontologies will help solve interoperability issues.”

Nasscom’s report also drew attention to privacy-preserving technologies it says should be made available to data stewards on the OGD platform to manage privacy and cybersecurity risks.

Jones noted that the apparent lack of personal data available through India’s open data initiative should alleviate privacy concerns, adding that “India’s responsibility for the security of datasets, once uploaded, should be diluted, even transferred, to new users and their respective collaborations. .”

But if data about individuals ends up on the OGD platform, anonymizing that data can help protect personal data – but only to a certain extent. “Even with data anonymization techniques, there may be a way to identify data subjects. Therefore, statistical techniques such as differential privacy are highly recommended,” Rao said.

Indranil Bandyopadhyay, senior financial services, insurance, data science and AI analyst at Forrester, said a clear legal framework should be implemented to avoid uncertainties regarding copyright, data privacy and openness of India’s open data efforts.

India’s proposed digital data protection bill should address these concerns, said Devroop Dhar, co-founder of consulting firm Primus Partners, calling for standardization of data formats and a framework cybersecurity to ensure transparency and effective data lifecycle management.

According to Nasscom, an integrated data usage strategy can add $450 billion to $500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025. This will require “careful use of datasets and its platforms that have the maximum potential for social impact, aiding policy development, creating new and quality jobs, innovations and evangelizing startups and promoting research and education”.

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