India - Non Strategic information to be made public

Antimony

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An Open Data Policy is being pushed by Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh, by which all non -strategic governmental data will be made public.

One of the many reasons why I think this guy is great:)

The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Nation | Policy to let information flow without asking

Excerpt

Policy to let information flow without asking
SANKARSHAN THAKUR

New Delhi, June 11: Transparency mandarins in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) have won a protracted argument with home and defence ministry officials over throwing open non-strategic data for public use.
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In terms of a transparency effort, the open data policy marks a quantum improvement on the RTI because it will institutionalise voluntary disclosure of information by the government.

“With RTI, you need to apply, wait and in many cases even pay for information you receive,” said a top official, explaining the difference. “Once the open data policy becomes operational, anyone will automatically be able to access information through the Net, or other means like hard copy and CDs.”

Manmohan Singh’s PMO has been pushing the open data policy for several years now but was being resisted by the home and defence ministries which have traditionally been zealous about keeping things under wraps. They’ve apparently been convinced that nothing they consider of strategic value or critical to national security will come under the purview of the new transparency regime.

“There is tonnes and tonnes of information which is non-strategic that the government still keeps away from public access,” the official said, “there is no virtue in such secrecy, in fact there is virtue in making it available, free information is critical to our development requirements, especially now that so many non-government and civil society groups have become partners in pushing us ahead.”

Some of the non-strategic areas in which government still withholds information are geology, mapping, health and education, water resources, and industrial profiling. “There is a whole lot of human development index data too that we uselessly keep away from public access and waste, in the right hands, all of this and more could be hugely beneficial to society,” the official said.

The Prime Minister himself underlined the need for greater transparency and accountability in an interaction with his team of officials this afternoon. It was like a general body meeting of the PMO with all officials above director rank present; national security adviser M.K. Narayanan also participated.

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An open data policy, on the lines of executive measures taken by the Barack Obama administration in the United States, has been a growing demand of transparency lobbyists in India.

One of them, Venkatesh Hariharan, who calls himself an “open-source evangelist”, says: “While the BJP did not win the elections, one of the proposals that I really liked within their IT Vision was that of replacing the Right to Information Act with a Duty to Inform Act that puts the onus on the government to share information with its citizens. In the long run, I think this is the way to go and with the technology at our disposal, we no longer have excuses to keep public data out of the reach of Indian citizens.”

The open data policy, implemented in its spirit, might come close to meeting such aspirations. “At the moment, even things like maps are difficult to access besides being expensive,” Hariharan says, “Maps in combination with other data can help tremendously. For example, there is currently a fear that the swine flu might start spreading. If data on this threat is available, it can be overlaid onto maps and this can help us understand how the disease is spreading.”
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Gupta also reasons that India should follow the US-model of making data accessible to the public at the cost of dissemination rather than the cost of collection. “Our entrepreneurs or researchers or social sector organisations are not really spoilt for resources,” he says, “to have to pay heavy prices for information may nullify the whole idea. I know of an instance in Bihar where an RTI applicant had to pay Rs 5 lakh for information sought on account of photocopying charges. That’s legitimate on the government’s part, but it also drives away information seekers. A voluntary data policy might correct that.”
This gives me hope that we are finally growing up as a progressive democracy, more than any stock market boom
 

Yusuf

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Great. All that information will get all of us busy with out posts with our own theories and interpretations.
 

Antimony

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Great. All that information will get all of us busy with out posts with our own theories and interpretations.
You mean more business to those who host the DFI servers?:D

But seriously, I would really think stuff like this would make the babus more accountable. At this point, RTI is a fearful word with them. Enquiry matters stamped RTI are given special importance, but cost the public a tonne.

It would be useful to know who is in charge of implementing xyz programs, especially for cost and time overruns. And then we go heckle the minister:twizt:
 

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