Big, Open Data for Development: A Vision for India 

Paper by Sam Asher, Aditi Bhowmick, Alison Campion, Tobias Lunt and Paul Novosad: “The government generates terabytes of data directly and incidentally in the operation of public programs. For intrinsic and instrumental reasons, these data should be made open to the public. Intrinsically, a right to government data is implicit in the right to information. Instrumentally, open government data will improve policy, increase accountability, empower citizens, create new opportunities for private firms, and lead to development and economic growth. A series of case studies demonstrates these benefits in a range of other contexts. We next examine how government can maximize social benefit from government data. This entails opening administrative data as far upstream in the data pipeline as possible. Most administrative data can be minimally aggregated to protect privacy, while providing data with high geographic granularity. We assess the status quo of the Government of India’s data production and dissemination pipeline, and find that the greatest weakness lies in the last mile: making government data accessible to the public. This means more than posting it online; we describe a set of principles for lowering the access and use costs close to zero. Finally, we examine the use of government data to guide policy in the COVID-19 pandemic. Civil society played a key role in aggregating, disseminating, and analyzing government data, providing analysis that was essential to policy response. However, key pieces of data, like testing rates and seroprevalence distribution, were unnecessarily withheld by the government, data which could have substantially improved the policy response. A more open approach to government data would have saved many lives…(More)”.