Principles Governing Open Government Data (OGD) Platform

OGD portal is designed to publish datasets and applications for public use

The Open Government Data (OGD) Platform (http://data.gov.in/) is an initiative taken by government to create an online portal through which various departments can share their non-sensitive data. The objective is to increase transparency and efficiency in functioning of offices under the government sector.

The data hosted on the portal includes income tax and inflation statistics, housing and population census, budget estimates, customized widgets and multiple applications. Currently, 12,708 resources are available in 3,407 catalogs. Further, 386 visualisations have been uploaded by 85 government departments/agencies with 45,909 registered users. The portal is a good example for CIOs and CDOs to efficiently implement open data initiative in their firm for enabling rational debate and transparency for better decision making.

The OGD platform is based on 10 major principles which have been adopted under “Implementation Guidelines for National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2014.” The NDSAP aims to provide an enabling provision and standards for proactive and open access to the data generated by various government entities. Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) and National Informatics Centre (NIC) are the nodal departments to execute NDSAP, while the Department of Science & Technology is responsible for policy related issues.

These ten standards are based on Sebastopol conference which illustrated the dissemination of electronically stored government data for civilian purposes. Further, these were updated and expanded by Sunlight Foundation. These pillars are the basic parameters under which Open Government Data architecture of government will function.

1) Primacy
It is significant that the datasets released by the government must be from primary source only. This will include information such as the methodology of collecting data and authentic source documents supporting it. Further, this information should be disseminated to public for verification of its accuracy and collection procedure.

2) Stablity
The information released by department/agencies should be available online in archives in perpetuity. The important element here is “Permanence”. Most of the times, the data available is amended, altered or expunged without any indication that a change has been made. This can further be augmented by providing information as a stream of data with appropriate version tracking system.

3) Openness
It is important that obstructions to dissemination of information such as restrictions, terms of service, license requirements should be as minimum as possible. The benefit of data would only be possible if the maximum openness is applied without any government restrictions.

4) Easy Access
The access to information through physical or electronic means should be effortless. The barriers to physical access includes mandatory forms or visit to a government office to access the information. In electronic access, obstruction includes data access only through submitted forms or particular browser oriented technologies like Flash, Javascript etc.
To overcome these, government must offer an interface which has features such as bulk access and Application Programming Interface (API) for instantaneous accessibility to datasets.

5) Totality
Datasets should be as comprehensive as possible, reflecting the entirety of collected information on a specific matter. The entire raw data should be distributed to public except personal information under standard law and procedures. Moreover, metadata (which defines and explains the raw data) should elucidate formulas and procedures which were adopted to calculate the derived dataset. This will help public to examine data minutely with a better understanding of amassed information.

6) Machine Readability
The information should be stored in widely used formats for synchronizing it with machine fluently. If due to some issue, there is a need to use difficult to parse formats; data must be made available in machine-friendly formats too. These files should be accompanied by information (related to the specific format) which explains the process to use them.

7) Commonly Owned Standards
The “commonly owned standards” refers to the company who owns the format in which data is stored. Sometimes this software is devoid to the public or is available for a minimum fee. Removing this cost can make the data available to large number of audience. Also, free formats should be available for accessing information without any mandatory license requirement.

8) Timeliness
Information is worth only, if it is available on time. The datasets released by the government on public platforms should be available in a timely fashion. Further, priority should be given to data whose utility is time sensitive. The real time update should be available on datasets for increasing their utility by public.

9) Usage Costs
A significant impediment to access information is the cost imposed on the public, even if the charge is de minimus. The government departments use a number of bases for charging the public for access to their own documents:
Cost of collecting and preparing the informationCost recovery basis Charge to retrieve informationCost of duplication
Imposing fees for accessing skews the pool of who is able to access information. This may prevent transformative use of the data for generating business and enterprise models.

10) Non-discrimination
Discrimination indicates that who can access data and what is the procedure. Here, the blockage to information includes registration or membership requirements. Secondly, the system of walled garden is applied through which selected applicants are allowed to access data. To counter this, Non-discriminatory admission should be practiced for accessing data without any identity proof or justification needed to do so.

The entire list of 10 principles under “Implementation Guidelines for National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), 2014” can be accessed at http://data.gov.in/sites/default/files/NDSAP_Implementation_Guidelines_2.2.pdf.

 

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