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Due process to be followed while selecting vendors: Govt on if foreign companies will store citizen health data

Parliament
Credit: Aditi Agrawal

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare sidestepped a question in the Rajya Sabha, asking if the government would store Indian citizens' data as part of the the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) with an Indian company, or a foreign one. It only replied that "[t]he selection of vendors for NDHM is compliant with various applicable rules and policies of Government of India".  Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Sanjay Singh, who asked the question, also wanted to know whether there was any violation of citizens' privacy if the data was stored with an "external company". The issue of how the health data of Indian citizens' is stored assumed significance in recent weeks. The CoWIN ecosystem, the backbone of the Indian government's COVID-19 vaccination effort, relies on Amazon Web Services (AWS), an arrangement that isn't kosher even for health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, according to a report by The Ken. Bhushan is said to have favoured the use of MeghRaj, developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) instead. No centralised database: Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State in the ministry, replied that citizen data is stored in a federated architecture, and not on a centralised database. "The data is stored in a federated architecture as described in the National Digital Health Blueprint released by the Government of India in 2019. There is no centralized database of medical records. However, NDHM enables appropriate use of the health data of each individual for his/her own healthcare with his/her consent only. Therefore, there is no violation…

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