The Indian government will share anonymized datasets collected and harmonized under the upcoming national data governance framework with Indian start-ups and researchers to innovate systems and create better policy solutions, the minister said. State of Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, at Hindustan Times.

“It will be a broad policy that will harmonize all the independent silos of data, data management, data processing, so that the standards and the rules – how to store, manage access, control and security – will form an administrative part of the policy, and its first pillar,” Chandrasekhar said. “It focuses on how to store, format and manage data.”

The policy has been sent to the cabinet of ministers for final approval, the minister said. So far, India has no policy governing anonymized or non-personal data. A committee has been set up to look into the matter under the leadership of former Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan. He submitted his report last year.

These standards will be set by India’s data management bureau, Chandrasekhar said. The policy framework works on ways to store and share data, he added.

The draft policy, as first reported by HT on April 9, clarifies the general purpose of the new framework. “(It will aim to ensure) greater citizen awareness, participation and engagement with open data, increase the availability of datasets of national importance and identify datasets suitable for sharing and improve overall compliance to secure data sharing and privacy policies and standards,” the draft says.

It will also be the “first step in catalysing the era of digital government”, which will provide “greater scope for better and more informed decision-making…while adhering to the highest standards of data protection and privacy. ‘commitment to data privacy principles,’ Draft said.

A central part of the data governance framework will be the formation of an Indian Data Management Office (IDMO) under the Ministry of Information Technology.

The policy reform, Chandrasekhar pointed out, was that anonymized datasets will be offered under India’s dataset programs to the artificial intelligence ecosystem, which will be an enabler for the digital economy. “The datasets that represent Indian consumers are a huge opportunity for the next generation of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms,” the minister said. “This is an estimated $200-500+ billion opportunity, if properly exploited.”

The datasets will be provided for governance research, which even the government can use to create better targeted policies. “This will include the ability to use AI to identify how different parts of the country need different types of programs and different forms of programs. A district in Jharkhand has very different needs than a district in India. Uttar Pradesh,” Chandrasekhar said. “It can help determine which policies are needed for which district.”

“The policy has huge applications that will make the next generation of governance more impactful, effective, focused and with more sustainable results, making India a global leader in the field,” he added.

Any such governance framework will need to consider existing constitutional and statutory protections and focus on the rights of those affected, said Supreme Court lawyer NS Nappinai, founder of CyberSaathi, a nonprofit organization working on digital security.

“Expressed assurances must be stated or implemented through enforceable mechanisms and every aspect of the proposal must be undertaken with responsible governance that reflects and anticipates risks and vulnerabilities,” she said.