The governments of the United States of America and India launched today launched an Open Government Platform (OGPL), an open source version of the US’s Data.gov platform, for helping make governments across the globe make data public. Teams from both countries – from the National Informatics Centre from India, and Data.gov from the US – collaborated over a six month period to develop the platform. At a press conference in Delhi execs said that there is interest from other governments to make their data public, especially from those in Africa.
Data.gov.in In Closed Beta For Testing
The Indian government is launching data.gov.in in closed beta for the time being, and the release is available at present for only a selected set of people (though government representatives did not specify which), who are expected to test the platform and give the project team feedback on its stability and suggestions for processes that need to be put into place. Once tested, the Indian government will make data.gov.in public, and release data in the public domain. Initially, datasets for agriculture, health and energy will be made public.
Speaking at the launch, Sam Pitroda said that the plan is to release all kinds of government data – on transportation, water, sanitation, railways and more; ideally, all but certain confidential data related to defense. He did warn, though, that it won’t be easy: “It will take time for people to give in to this. Information is power and not many people want to share.” Readers should keep in mind that government data in India is under copyright, and organizations aren’t particularly open towards sharing it, or even allowing its usage. In the past, we’ve received a takedown notice from IRCTC, an Indian Railways company, asking for removal of reports which use their performance data, because we hadn’t written to them for permission.
India’s Communications & IT Minister Kapil Sibal pointed towards challenges in standardization of government data in India, where land records are kept differently in each state, and First Information Reports (FIRs) are lodged differently by the police in each stage. “There are technology, procedural and administrative problems, ” he said, apart from other concerns: “Who Owns Data? Who owns what data? What is the data that can be owned by individuals? What kind of data can be put in the public domain without compromising privacy? These are questions that governments are grappling with. Data belongs to all of us. The quicker we realize that, the better for all of us, because governments and citizens can collaborate.” He hoped that this would bring about transparency and a participatory government.
The platform has two modules – one is the internal module which is dataset management system, by which the agencies contribute datasets documents, webservices and applications. The program manager then validates the submission and publishes it to the catalog. The catalog allows the data to be easily discovered. You can filter by different categories. When you select a dataset from a catalog,and you’ll see the additional information about that dataset, how to download it, what it’s used for, and number of times the dataset has been downloaded, as well as its ranking.
Other notes from the press conference:
- Selection Of Data: Government departments will contribute datasets, but all the documents and datasets will first be processed through a uniform process of approvals and authentication before it is made public.
- Licenses: There will be no licenses needed or software for usage.
- Usage: Citizens can download datasets, create mashups, and pull data into web services. The datasetcitizens can help governments assess the quality fo the satasets with ratings and give feedback to the government.
- Community engagement: the platform will allow the visitors to rank the datasets, share comment, suggest improvements and new datasets, and pull data into websites and blogs.
- Metrics for sharing: the platform will also make public the number of contributions made by each of the government agencies, so that citizens can also see how well each agency is doing in terms of sharing that data.
- Virtual Teams: The two government project teams executed the project virtually, meeting face-to-face only once, and collaborating on the project over six months, using Skype for meetings, github for source code management and google docs for sharing documents.
At the launch, credit was also given to Anish Chopra, the former Chief Technology Officer of the US government, who initiated this collaboration last year during his visit to India.