NEW DELHI: Laying emphasis on the importance of data for the benefit of citizens and effective implementation of the government's social welfare schemes, the Economic Survey advocated treating data as a public good. The survey noted that bringing the scattered data spread across ministries together, the government can deliver a better experience to the citizen.
While the survey spoke of achieving its data goal within the legal framework, it also backed selling data to private entities on grounds that it can increase Government revenue. However, it gave a rider allowing people to opt out of sharing data in certain cases.
"The prospect of empowering the government with such comprehensive, exhaustive information about every citizen may sound alarming at first. However, this is far from the truth. First, large quantities of data already exist in government records, and the objective is only to use this data in a more efficient way," it said.
The survey said that the principle is that most data are generated by the people, of the people and should be used for the people.
In thinking about data as a public good, the survey noted that care must also be taken to not impose the 'elite's' preference of privacy on the poor, who care for a better quality of living the most.
It is to be noted that wide section of people has criticized government's Aadhaar scheme and its use by a private player to add consumers and other activities, which in many cases led to data breach of individuals. The survey said that sophisticated technologies already exist to protect and share confidential information.
On the consent of individuals to share data, the survey said that people can always opt out of divulging data to the government, 'where possible.' "There are exceptions, of course. People cannot buy and drive vehicles without a license and registration certificate," it said.
"Consistent with the notion of data as a public good, there is no reason to preclude commercial use of this data for profit. Undoubtedly, the data revolution envisioned here is going to cost funds. Although the social benefits would far exceed the cost to the government, at least a part of the generated data should be monetised to ease the pressure on government finances," the survey said.
The practice of not letting the use of data especially that of Aadhaar by private entities (mainly telcos and banks), was recently challenged in the Supreme Court. While the apex court, in the landmark Judgment upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, it had barred telcos and banks to use Aadhaar information. However, the government later introduced an amendment in the Act which is currently being discussed in the parliament.