(with research by Manas Pant)

NITI Aayog is developing a National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP) to serve a “one-stop platform for all published government data”, Rajiv Kumar, the vice chairman, announced. It will be built with the help of stakeholders and government bodies who work with big data. The first version of the NDAP is proposed to be released in 2021.

MediaNama has reached out to NITI Aayog and members of the technical advisory group, which has been established to govern the platform, to learn how the NDAP will be different from the Open Government Data (OGD) Platform maintained by MeitY. It seems as if the two platforms have significant overlap in areas such as use of a search engine, sources of data, social media sharing, visualisations, etc.

NDAP has been in the works for at least 3 years with nothing to show for it: NITI Aayog’s Annual Report 2017-18 first mentioned NDAP as a proof of concept. In 2017, the then new department, Data Management & Analysis Vertical, was working on selecting a private party to develop the portal. Annual Report 2018-19 mentioned that DMAV would create a web portal that would “serve as a single point for accessing data across all Ministries of Government of India” along with visualisation and self-service analytics. In April 2018, the Economic Times had reported about it. No personally identifying information was expected to be collected.

  • The think tank released its first Request for Proposal (RFP) looking for a private vendor on April 12, 2018 and the proposals were due by May 30, 2018. It released another Request for Proposal on July 18, 2019. This round of proposals was due to be submitted by September 26, 2019. It is unclear why the government think tank released an RFP before announcing the project.

Government’s renewed interest in non-personal data: This formal announcement from NITI Aayog comes four months after MeitY formed a Committee of Experts to look into governance of non-personal data. Interestingly, the new draft of Personal Data Protection Bill has a clause that gives the Central Government the power to ask “a data fiduciary or data processor to provide any personal data anonymised or other non-personal data to enable better targeting of delivery of services or formulation of evidence-based policies” [Clause 91(2)].

Key features

  • Data sources: Apart from OGD, the NDAP will source data from websites of more than 50 ministries/departments of the central government, state governments “not exceeding 250 [sic]”, autonomous and affiliated bodies of the ministries of agriculture, education, finance and health, etc. It appears that NDAP and OGDwill have an overlap in data sources since the OGD portal has a huge corpus of data that will now be a part of NDAP
  • Search engine sharing: The NDAP is proposed to have a search engine feature that will allow for easy access to data from different sectors. MediaNama tried using the search function on OGD and that also yielded data from different ministries and departments.
  • Visualisations: NITI Aayog’s new platform will have user-friendly visualisations. However, data.gov.in already has an entire webpage solely dedicated to visualisations.
  • APIs: NDAP will offer APIs to users, something that OGD already does.
  • Social media sharing: NDAP will allow users to share data on social media to encourage “discussion”. The OGD platform already lets users can share links of data sets on Facebook and Twitter.

Governance structure of NDAP

As per the document released by NITI Aayog, a technical advisory group (TAG) of experts will be established to consult in the governance of the platform. Its current members are:

  • Mudit Kapoor, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute
  • Ajit Pai, OSD, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog
  • Asha Subramanian, Founder & CEO Semantic Web India
  • Monojit Choudhury, Principle Researcher, Microsoft
  • Lalitesh Katragadda, Founder, Indihood
  • Yamini Aiyer, President and Chief Executive of CPR
  • Sam Asher, Co-Founder, Development Data Lab

A “high powered inter-ministerial steering committee” will also be set under the chairpersonship of the vice chairman of NITI Aayog. A project management unit will also be established. A technology vendor will be engaged in the development and operation of the platform.