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Sam Pitroda’s Twitter Conference: Data Sharing, Govt Projects & Unanswered Questions

Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister, conducted a virtual press conference via social networking site, Twitter, discussing the democratisation of information and the need for a new information model. He discussed Public Information Infrastructure (PII) and said that the government has various plans to build a robust Information Infrastructure to democratize information.

He also talked about the National Knowledge Network (NKN) through which the government intends to connect 1,500 nodes for universities, colleges, R&D labs, Libraries, among others. He discussed the government’s ambitious optical fiber connectivity project that aims to connect 250,000 village Panchayats and the government’s data.gov.in platform. However, he evaded questions related to the government curtailing information and not willing to share information via RTI. Although he did mention that the idea of PII was to provide a backbone to RTI.

On sharing data: On making government data public, Pitroda said that it was upto the various departments to decide what will be shared and that at first there would be some concerns, but after a while departments will be more open. He did clarify that certain sensitive information will have to be controlled by the government. He said that Panchayats can also put their data on data.gov.in directly. He mentioned that in order to build PII, the government needs multiple open platforms for Broadband, UID, GIS, Security, Applications, Payment and Portals.

OFC Project: Answering queries on the government’s ambitious optical fibre connectivity projects, he informed that the government was spending Rs 30,000 crore and intends to complete the project in 18 months. He said that the Pilot projects on Panchayat connectivity were already underway, and that a million kilometers of OFC already exists. He also elaborated that fibre was being laid by BSNL, PowerGrid, railtel, in addition to private players (which were not named).

On NKN: On National Knowledge Network, Pitroda said that the project was meant to connect educational institutions to improve research collaboration, and that it will connect all public universities and R&D labs by the end of the year. The project is already operational, with 850 institutions connected to the network, he added.

Unanswered questions: Pitroda did not answer questions asked by Twitter users related to the kind documents will become public, reliability of data and the departments that are on board. He also evaded questions on RTI, the status of privacy bill and law under which privacy issues were currently covered (asked by MediaNama Editor Nikhil Pahwa @nixxin). He also did not answer questions related to possible monetisation solutions for developers who make apps for the government projects.

While the government attempted to connect with the public and the media, after it faced accusations of stifling social media (specifically during the North East exodus crisis), the focus of the conference was on existing projects, which have been discussed several times at various platforms. Also, Twitter as a social media platform has its own limitations, and we feel that some queries require detailed clarifications, for which perhaps a blog could be used.

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