This is IT for Change’s response to the draft National Data Governance Framework Policy (NDGFP) released for public consultation by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in May 2022. Given that the NDGFP is not very different from the draft Data Accessibility and Use Policy released in February 2022, this response must be read in conjunction with our response to the erstwhile policy.
We appreciate the NDGFP for its recognition of the crucial role of non-personal data in transforming governance and catalyzing economic growth and social development. Consequently, the policy proposes to develop a public data infrastructure called the India Datasets program and goes a step further to suggest that in addition to government data, privately held data is also required for its successful development. This is a particularly welcome move given the most important and extensive data in almost every sector is held by a few corporations that own and control large customer-facing digital platforms.
However, where the policy falls short is in taking a voluntary approach towards data sharing i.e., leaving it to the discretion of private corporations to contribute their data to the India Datasets program. The fact that data is the key resource of the digital economy, and exclusive hoarding and controlling of data is what allows digital corporations to gain an almost monopolistic dominance in their respective sectors, is an axiom in the digital age. Voluntary data sharing, therefore, is a major logical fallacy because no reasonable economic actor would willingly give up control of its most important resource, leave alone giant monopolistic corporations with their profit-maximizing motives.
The corrective measure that must be taken is to make it mandatory for private corporations to share such data exclusively held by them, which may need a stronger legal instrument than an executive policy. This, in our opinion, is imperative to realize the infrastructural value of data and move towards a robust and equitable digital economy. Our response concludes with providing a host of academic references emphasizing the need for mandatory data sharing, as well as highlighting regulatory measures taken by other jurisdictions like the EU in this regard.