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India: Government sets its data free

Rashmi Sharma |

India has joined growing number of nations that plan to use open data as a tool to promote transparency and greater citizen engagement in governance. Information is now easily accessible at the click of a mouse with the launch of Data Portal India. Data Portal India is a platform for single-point access to datasets and applications published by various ministries/government departments for supporting the Open Data initiative of the National Data Sharing & Accessibility Policy (NSDAP). The NDSAP, which provides the framework for official data-sharing, is applicable  to all non-classified data collected using public funds held by various ministries / departments / subordinate offices. India has collaborated with the U.S. in developing the Open Government Platform (OGPL) used for setting up this data portal. The entire product is available for download at the Open Source Code Sharing Platform, GitHub.

The Data Portal India is based on content management system Drupal. It has four major modules:

  • Data Management System (DMS) – Backend Module for contributing datasets/apps by authorized users from ministry/departments/organisations of the government through a predefined workflow in the standard metadata format.
  • Content Management System (CMS) – Module for managing and updating various functionalities and content of the Data Portal India by the System Administrator of the Portal.
  • Visitor Relationship Management (VRM) – Module for collating and disseminating the feedback/suggestions from the stake holders on datasets and applications. Feedbacks/suggestions could be shared through feedback form, suggest datasets/apps and contact us.
  • Communities – Module which brings together different sets of people sharing the same interest, belonging to the same sector or having interest for the same datasets. This module facilitates a platform for interaction and knowledge sharing.

The government has chosen data controllers from different ministries, departments and organisations to supervise data. The data on the website will be populated by government department gradually and development of various services on it will take place in phased manner.

Accessibility

The portal is in compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level AA  and Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW)  using a technical standards check-list, in-depth testing with screen readers, policy experts, and person with disabilities.

Datasets and applications

Data are values or sets of values representing a specific concept or concepts. Data become ‘information’ when analysed and possibly combined with other data in order to extract meaning, and to provide context. Data Portal India offers searchable catalogue of datasets and applications published by ministries / departments/ organisations of Government of India for public use. The datasets/apps can be downloaded in different formats like Excel, JSON, JSONP and users can also explore the data visualization if the dataset quality is good. Users can search through the datasets / apps by different filtering criteria. If the required dataset/app is not available, uses can suggest the same for consideration by the concerned ministry / department. Datasets / Apps can also be contributed by authenticated users through the web-based CMS available at http://datacms.nic.in.

Communities

The website features communities – Developers, Energy, Education, Rural, Health and Agriculture – to provide a platform for interaction among users. Through forums people can share their ideas to make data.gov.in better and more useful. They can discuss useful applications, tools, services and innovative ideas for new projects.

Fostering innovation through OGPL

The OGPL community will provide future technology enhancements, open government solutions, and community-based technical support. With available data on the website, analysts, media, and academia can develop new applications and insights. Developers will be able to create new applications that engage, inform and empower citizens to increase their knowledge and make better decisions. Developers can utilize OGPL data to:

  • Merge geographic data with government data to create easy-to-understand maps that show trends in areas like employment, environmental, and community health
  • Rapidly build new web and mobile applications that combine various datasets.

It will benefit the global community that seeks to promote government transparency, citizen-focused applications, and enrich humanity.