With our societies getting increasingly digitalized and datafied if governments are to keep fulfilling their central societal role they too must get digitalized and datafied. But this must be undertaken in appropriate ways that protect and enhance people’s rights, requiring strong new institutional checks and balances, on one hand, and new enabling roles for the state, on the other. Both these imperatives – undertaking digitalization and datafication, and basing it on our fundamental rights – are essential for upholding our ‘social contract’.
In this context, one key new role of the state is to help make available as a public infrastructure all such data that is vitally required for various social and economic activities in a digital age. This serves the socioeconomic objectives of both productivity and equity. We find the draft Data Accessibility and Use Policy an extremely important and timely initiative in this regard.
Our input seeks to internalize data-as-infrastructure thinking in various data-sharing policies. It urges including a 'right to information' objective in the policy, strong measures to ensure non-discrimination and non-exclusivity, a positive enablement approach, protective discrimination towards weaker sections and domestic industry, localization of some government shared non-personal data, and use of 'data trustee framework' instead of calling data collecting/ generating department and agencies as data owners.