Source: ET Bureau
These proposed regulations overlap and in some cases even contradict, and these issues have been flagged by global companies such as Google and IBM.
The government is planning to set up a national data governance centre to hold all public data, and establish guidelines for the management, sharing and monetisation of information. State agencies and even startups could access the data through this facility.
“This division will be more about guidelines, standards, interactions and so on. This could be housed in the Ministry of IT and Electronics (MeitY) and all community data — not personal data, but public data, including anonymous data — would fall under the purview of this centre,” a government official told ET.
Public data relates to freely available information that is collated by various agencies or companies in the course of their operations and which can be traded without restrictions or be used for public utility purposes. This includes traffic and illness patterns.
“Data has an economic value, but who, when and where uses that, that would then lie under a national data-sharing policy to be developed under the data governance centre,” the official said, adding that all personal data-related issues, however, would fall under the purview of the proposed personal data-protection law. The Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament soon.
Another official said the new body will also address the current confusion around which wing of the government actually handles matters related to data or which is the nodal point for matters related to data. Already, three agencies — MeitY, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and commerce ministry — jump in to control aspects of data, especially those related to privacy and security.
Besides MeitY’s PDP Bill 2018, Trai has sent separate recommendations on the privacy and security aspects related to data that flow through telecom networks, while the draft ecommerce policy has elements related to data localisation and monetisation of public data.
These proposed regulations overlap and in some cases even contradict, and these issues have been flagged by global companies such as Google and IBM. But recently, commerce minister Piyush Goyal directed his ministry to take out the data elements from the draft ecommerce policy, leaving the PDP Bill to handle those.
“One thing everybody agrees on in the government is that there should be no overlap,” the second official said. The official said the national data governance centre will interact with all other government agencies who need any data. For instance, the road transport ministry might require data on traffic congestion or health ministry might require data on patients flow in certain hospitals.
“Also, the government might decide on providing access of certain community data to Indian startups to foster and handhold them. Right now, there is no way any startup can get hold of such data, owing to which a handful of companies are monopolising all public data. This narrative will change,” the first official said. For example, Google collects all data on traffic, while companies such as Uber and Ola have data on traffic patterns.
“Shouldn’t all this community or public data be available at one centralised location with the government, so that it can be used by everyone, including government agencies to make relevant laws and even help startups,” the official said, explaining the discussions underway in the government over the data policy.