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The Surat Municipal Corporation has launched an open data initiative for the city at surat.data.gov.in. The initiative is a part of the Open Government Data (OGD) platform for India, intended for use by Government Ministries/ Departments and their sub-organizations to publish datasets, documents, services, tools and applications for public use.

The Surat portal currently lists 8 data catalogs, including data sets related to property tax, details of the elected wing for the Surat Municipal Corporation, census data for Surat, professional tax registration data, vehicle registration details, birth & death data for Surat and a catalog of various citizen facilities like offices, libraries, reading rooms etc.

Each catalog has its own resources, with a total of 70 resources across all catalogs. For example, the census data for Surat contains resources like population of the main cities of Gujarat from 1901 to 2011, ward wise area and population of SC/ST etc. The platform lists the size of these files, and lets users export them in CSV, XML, JSON, JSONP, XLS and ODS formats.

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The portal has other nifty features like the name, designation, contact and address of relevant data officers on each catalog. It also lets users provide feedback, and/or suggest a new data set. Other than Surat, only the state of Sikkim has a data portal based on the OGD platform. The state government lists 25 catalogs by 5 departments with an overall 82 resources. None of the resources we checked on Surat’s or Sikkim’s portal listed any personal identifiable info, instead displaying data like the count, stats etc.

The Open Government Data Platform is an initiative between the US & Indian Governments, based on the US’s Data.gov platform, for helping make government data across the globe more public. Launched in 2012, the platform has seen slow adoption, with only 2 Government bodies making use of it. However, the OGD initiatives are better in terms of execution and respect user privacy compared to the portals mentioned below.

Other government data portals:

The Chennai and Hyderabad Municipal Corporations operate a list of birth and death certificates online, that display entire user information including name, place of birth etc. Last year, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways also made it possible for anyone to send an SMS with the message ‘VAHAN’ and a vehicle number, to fetch the name of the owner, vehicle name, RC/FC expiry date and motor vehicle tax paid upto time etc.