July 14, 2024

With data being considered the new oil, India, the world’s second-largest internet market after China, is looking to establish a dedicated entity to manage the data it generates and set up rules and regulations for non-personal and anonymized personal data.

The Indian government plans to propose setting up of a body, called the National Data Management Office, according to a draft Digital India Bill seen by TechCrunch.

According to the proposal, the new entity will be overseen by India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and help set up rules for data governance in the country, per the draft proposal, which is yet to be made public. It will comprise separate data management units for the central government departments and ministries that process non-personal and anonymized data.

Since government departments and ministries also generate an enormous amount of data from various public services, the National Data Management Office is planned to develop a “standard mechanism” for inter-governmental data access. It will also work with the central government ministries and state governments to standardize data management. The entity will build the India Datasets program, which was earlier proposed under the draft National Data Governance Framework Policy to create large datasets by collecting non-personal and anonymized personal data from various government ministries and departments as well as private entities.

Digital advocacy groups including New Delhi-based Internet Freedom Foundation have previously raised concerns about interdepartmental data-sharing proposals made by the Indian government. They cautioned that the move would put citizen data at risk. It is unclear whether the Indian government has considered those risks. However, it plans to include formulating disclosure norms for data collection, storage and access through the proposed entity.

The government also proposes to specify standards relating to the “architecture of application/platforms/digital systems, adoption of technology, online interface, cloud security, adoption of emerging technologies, payment gateways, development of online interface which are multi-lingual and multi-channel, use of GIS services, performance indicators, upgradations” through the entity.

India’s planned approach with the proposed National Data Management Office is similar to that of Saudi Arabia, which already has an entity with the same name linked to the Saudi Data & AI Authority (SDAIA) to work on data processing and management at the country level.

While the proposed body will work on data management and define the parameters for non-personal and anonymized personal data, the Indian government passed the Digital Personal Data Protection Act (PDF) last month to regulate digital personal data access and processing in the country.

Ministry of Electronics and IT did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned proposal.

The Indian government is expected to table the Digital India Bill in the parliament in its winter session late in the year. The Bill, if it gets passed in the parliament and receives approval from the Indian President, will become a law and replace the 22-year-old Information Technology Act, 2000. Before tabling in the parliament, the Indian government is expected to start the consultation process in the coming days.

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