The site is in testing phase now; full-fledged data uploading may begin a couple of weeks

Government portal data.gov.in, which will be used to share official data with the public, is set to be fully functional soon.

Now in beta or testing phase, the site has technically gone “beyond it,” and full-fledged data uploading could begin a couple of weeks after an official workshop scheduled for next month, CEO of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure R. Siva Kumar told The Hindu.

With this, India joins the rank of a growing number of nations that plan to use open data as a tool to promote transparency and efficiency in government.

The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), which provides the framework for official data-sharing, will apply to all “non-classified data collected using public funds held by various Ministries/ Departments /Subordinate offices.”

The NDSAP is intended to open up public access to such data “through established procedures and defined norms.”

An Open Government Partnership launched by the United States and seven other governments, and supported by many countries, acknowledges the “right” of citizens to seek information on government activities. Though it is not part of this initiative, India has collaborated with the U.S. in developing the Open Government Platform (OGPL) used for setting up this data portal.

The site that harbours the code for the Platform states that it will enable governments worldwide to create web and mobile applications to view, use and merge various data sets, provide online citizen services through forms, registrations and applications, and publish links to regulatory, statistical, and other information compiled by government agencies, among other things.

The open source architecture of the OGPL, based on content management system Drupal, will make it possible for developers to create applications fast and make use of the data in different ways.

It is raw data that will be uploaded on the portal, which citizens and organisations can put to diverse uses. Most of the data is expected to be available free of charge. And, certain categories will not be shared, for which negative lists will be drawn up, subject to a periodic review by an ‘oversight committee.’

A few datasets from certain government departments have already been uploaded to the site, which also features some mobile apps.

The government has chosen ‘data controllers’ from different Ministries, Departments and organisations to oversee data access and a workshop is being conducted for them next month.

Open data activist Nisha Thompson described the launch of the beta site as “an incredible first step,” but noted, “The restrictions and limitations in its governing policy, the NDSAP, will prevent the creation of a true open data site and be a challenge that the growing community of open government proponents will have to take up.” She hoped that the government would interact with open data groups around the country “in order to really understand that this site is something that people want and will use,” and that high-value datasets would be made available in due course.

The NDSAP has set the ground rules for sharing government data in both human and machine readable forms through the portal. Various government departments and organisations are to upload a certain number of datasets on the portal, and deadlines have been set for this process.

The portal will list three catalogues — a dataset catalogue featuring platform-independent, machine readable data in various file formats and other technical information associated with these, including the data source. The tools catalogue will include a list of tools available to access the data. The apps catalogue will detail the apps available.

The portal also showcases a Developers’ Corner, where agencies, organisations, or individuals could share mash-ups created with the data sets. Programmers and developers will be encouraged to review the datasets and create applications or programmes to add value to the data.

The policy provides for open, registered and restricted access to data. While the open category will include a data-sharing process that is “easy, timely, user-friendly and web-based without any process of registration/authorisation,” data in the registered access category will be available only through a process of registration/authorisation by the respective Departments/organisations and only to “recognised institutions/organisations/public users, through defined procedures.” Data categorised as ‘restricted’ will be available only “through authorisation.”

More In: Internet | Technology