The number of datasets uploaded to the portal has been steadily increasing.
More than 2700 datasets from 39 departments have been uploaded so far to the fledgling open data portal data.gov.in commissioned by the government in October last year. The site has been gaining traction over the months, with an increase in traffic and the open data community and others taking an interest in the data sets on offer.
Initiatives to open up government data and allow public access to it is now a global trend that is gathering momentum by the day, with many governments having set up data portals and uploaded thousands of datasets to these. Many of them have come up with citizen and community-centric open data policies. This global trend is expected to promote greater transparency in governance usher in a new and better level of citizen inclusion in governance.
The Agriculture Ministry, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and Planning Commission between them account for the majorty of the data sets on data.gov.in. Most of the Agriculture Ministry data relate to prices.
Expressing satisfaction with the manner in which the portal is being developed, Nisha Thompson, a data activist said, "The fact that they have over 2700 datasets, are actively sponsoring hackathons, building partnerships, and are actively interacting with citizens and community members makes me really happy." Some of the datasets are robust while others are not. "Standards are not always consistent, but the formats are getting better." There was a long way to go, but she could see the potential in it becoming a "real citizen and governmentcollaborative effort."
Another data activitst, Thejesh G. N., also said he was happy with the progress made by the portal though it was slower than what he expected. The data community was generally satisfied with data formats and standards used by the portal and appreciated the interest that the authorities in getting the community to to use the data. They had been open and asked the community to suggest formats.
But more than speed in uploading datasets, the "quality of participation" was more important, said R. Siva Kumar, CEO, National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Time would be required for the concept to be accepted and acted upon in terms of populating the database, he said.
The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) has divided official data into three categories - one of which is restricted and need not be shared publicy. Open data activists had, in an interaction with officials earlier this year, suggested that the Right to Information (RTI) framework should be used to decide which data should be shared with the public. The RTI’s privacy stipulations and transparency guidelines could form the basis for deciding what kinds of information belonged to the classified or restricted use category, because departmental discretion alone could not be relied upon as a sound basis for such categorisation. RTI-related pricing guidelines should also be applied, they argued. "The difficult job of interpreting the NDSAP will continue until it is changed to become a true open data policy," said Ms. Thompson.