India Data Management Office | Non-personal data regulator after consultations: MoS IT

A body proposed by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) to act as the country’s non-personal data regulator will be formulated following a series of roundtables and public consultations involving the industry, consumer groups and government agencies, Minister of State for Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar told The Indian Express.

In May, the ministry had released the draft National Data Governance Framework Policy, which proposed to harness non-personal data available with the government by start-ups of the country. The draft proposed the creation of an India Data Management Office (IDMO), which would manage and set standards for the flow of such data, and act as the sector’s regulator. In its most basic form, non-personal data is any set of data which does not contain personally identifiable information.


Existing concerns over law

Framing a suitable legislation on handling collection and usage of non-personal data has been facing obstacles for some time now, amid concerns over what can be considered non-personal data or how it might be used by private entities.

“We will not decide the design and composition of the IDMO in this ministry alone. We will have a series of roundtables and public consultations of what that institution should be like. We will get consumer groups, innovators, technology experts, representatives from Big Tech companies, government ministries and agencies in a room and discuss how the IDMO should be like,” Chandrasekhar said during an exclusive interaction with this paper. “The institution building will be done through consultation.”

The data governance framework policy, while having laid out the responsibilities of the IDMO, was unclear about its composition. Chandrasekhar’s comments provide the first indications of how the IDMO could potentially be formed.

Once finalised, the IDMO is set to play a key role in dictating how start-ups could gain access to non-personal data housed with the government. The body will be incharge of designing and managing the ‘India Datasets’ platform, which will process requests and provide Indian researchers and start-ups access to the non-personal datasets.

The MeitY’s draft policy also “encourages” private companies to share non-personal data with the IDMO which will “prescribe rules and standards, including anonymisation standards for all entities (government and private) that deal with data that will cause every government ministry/department/organisation to identify and classify available datasets and build a vibrant, diverse and large base of datasets for research and innovation”.

The draft data governance framework was a replacement of the shelved data accessibility policy, a draft of which MeitY floated in February. The old draft policy was axed as it faced severe criticism over its proposal to monetise government data.

The idea of harnessing economic benefits from aggregated non-personal datasets was first proposed by a MeitY-appointed committee headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan.

In a draft report of January 2021, the Gopalakrishnan committee recommended the identification of certain “high-value datasets”, which could be shared for the purpose of encouraging innovation and ensuring national security.

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