A body proposed by the Ministry of Electronics and Computing (MeitY) to act as the country’s non-personal data regulator will be formulated following a series of roundtables and public consultations involving the industry , consumer groups and government agencies, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar told The Indian Express.
In May, the ministry released the draft National Data Governance Framework Policy, which proposed to leverage non-personal data available from the government by the country’s start-ups. The project proposed the establishment of an Indian Data Management Office (IDMO), which would manage and set standards for the flow of such data, and act as a regulator of the industry. In its most basic form, non-personal data is any set of data that does not contain personally identifiable information.
Existing concerns about the law
The development of appropriate legislation on the handling of the collection and use of non-personal data has faced obstacles for some time, due to concerns about what may be considered non-personal data or how they might be used by private entities.
“We will not decide on the design and composition of the IDMO in this ministry alone. We will have a series of round tables and public consultations on what this institution should be. We will bring together consumer groups, innovators, technology experts, representatives of Big Tech companies, ministries and government agencies in a room and discuss how IDMO should be,” Chandrasekhar said during the exclusive interaction with this document. “Institution building will be done through consultation.”
The Data Governance Framework Policy, while defining IDMO’s responsibilities, was unclear as to its composition. Chandrasekhar’s comments provide the first indications of how the IDMO could potentially be formed.
Once finalized, the IDMO should play a key role in dictating how start-ups could access non-personal data hosted by the government. The body will be responsible for designing and managing the “India Datasets” platform, which will process requests and provide Indian researchers and start-ups with access to non-personal datasets.
MeitY’s draft policy also “encourages” private companies to share non-personal data with IDMO which “will prescribe rules and standards, including anonymization standards for all entities (governmental and private) that process data that will engage every government ministry/department/organization to identify and categorize available datasets and build a dynamic, diverse and broad base of datasets for research and innovation”.
The draft data governance framework replaced the shelved data accessibility policy, whose draft MeitY was presented in February. The old draft policy was taken down as it was harshly criticized for its proposal to monetize government data.
The idea of harnessing the economic benefits of aggregated, non-personal datasets was first proposed by a MeitY-appointed committee led by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan.
In a January 2021 draft report, the Gopalakrishnan Committee recommended the identification of certain “high-value datasets”, which could be shared with the aim of encouraging innovation and ensuring national security.