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Summary: Tamil Nadu’s data policy looks to create a single source of demographic data

It appears to be on the same page as another central government policy that looks to monetise public data.

The Tamil Nadu government has come up with a data policy to create a “single source of data for attributes such as name, date of birth, addresses, e-KYC authenticated bank account, photograph…” for government schemes.

Ideally, what it means is that the government will integrate different datasets, to “provide an integrated perspective to the policy maker”, it added.  The policy did not mention whether this data source would or would not be available for access by law enforcement departments and so on.

Overall, the Tamil Nadu Data Policy (TNDP) is supposed to be used for governmental processes and for data-sharing with third parties such as private players. The data has been classified into four types — personally identifiable information, sensitive personal data, anonymised data, and aggregated data. Data requesters such as citizens, private bodies, government agencies, PSUs, and academia can access these datasets without permission in some cases, and in others, with authorisation and for a fee.

The policy also proposed setting up a State-level Empowered Data Governance Committee (EDGC) with officials such as the Chief Secretary as members. A Data Inter-Departmental Committee (DIDC) will also be created, whose function will be to take operational decisions based on the approval of the EDGC. Its members will include data officers who have to be appointed in each governmental department.

This policy comes after MeitY recently released the Draft India Data Accessibility & Use Policy 2022 which also recommends data monetisation and proposes a data management unit in every ministry headed by Chief Data Officers.

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Data officers to be responsible for collection

A Department Data Officer will be responsible for department data collection, decisions relating to open data, storage, compliance to the TNDP, and carrying out the decisions of the Data Inter-Departmental Committee (DIDC), the policy said. Additionally, Sub-Data officers will be responsible for identifying and contributing datasets to the Tamil Nadu Open Data Platform along with the metadata.

“Each Sub-Data Officer shall contribute data as per the defined metadata format to facilitate easy sharing and collaboration. Prior to the contribution, the datasets shall have to be approved by the Department Data Officer.” – Tamil Nadu Data Policy

The Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA), which will function as a repository of all data, will publish separate guidelines for departments to follow in collecting the data during beneficiary registration and benefit delivery.

As per the policy, data will be collected by —

High frequency call-based monitoring: For assessing scheme efficiency data, high frequency call-based monitoring cell will be set up in Tamil Nadu eGovernment Agency in collaboration with DEAR (Department of Economics and Applied Research). This will include beneficiary feedback survey, data quality validation survey, and outcome tracking based on departmental requests, the policy added.

“The preferred way of collecting data would be through structured electronic survey forms with appropriate restrictions on different fields (e.g. Name/ Date /numeric fields in a specific format as per the metadata catalogue).” – TNDP

Electronic feedback mechanism: Departments shall implement an electronic (mobile/web based) feedback mechanism on collecting citizen ratings of the delivery of their schemes. “This data shall form the basis for evaluating citizen satisfaction of the scheme and the basis for improvements and rating schemes based on citizen feedback ratings,” the policy added.

Who can access the data? 

Source: Tamil Nadu Data Policy

It is important to note that, as per Data Sharing Access/Cost/Permission Matrix of the data policy, the Tamil Nadu government will have access to personally identifiable information, sensitive personal data. It may or may not be anonymised (as it is denoted by the Y/N entry), and it may or may not be aggregated.

The TNDP stresses that in all cases, de-anonymised data be shared. However, if personal or sensitive personal data is necessary such as for conducting “a quality survey as part of the validation of existing administrative records, checking field-level delivery of a government program, or combining with survey data on individual outcomes from welfare programmes”, the policy added, “minimal identifiable information shall be shared, on a case-by-case basis with required safeguards, and as is necessary for the research”.

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The private sector may have access to sensitive personal data in anonymised format after taking prior permission, as per TNDP. The fee for accessing the data has not been provided. The private sector can use the data for coming up with value added services that can ‘improve governance, economic activity and jobs,’ the policy read. However, the government does not define value added services.

TNDP in line with older version of Data Protection Bill 

The Tamil Nadu government has mentioned that its policy has principles of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, even when a newer version of the bill is available.

“The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 (PDP) (which is yet to become a law) lays down a few key principles such as consent and autonomy of citizens, collection and purpose limitation, security of data, and responsibility of data controllers and data fiduciaries. TNDP is written with these principles in mind to facilitate adaptability to PDP in near future, while appreciating the fact that the Bill is yet to become a law.” – TNDP

State departments and government organisations should abide by all the latest data security and protection policy guidelines and frameworks of the Government of Tamil Nadu, TNeGA instructions and any other rules / guidelines by the Government of India, the policy stated.

Other details around data privacy and security in the policy —

  • Personal data of citizens shall be collected only to the extent necessary for the relevant scheme or program.“Sensitization will be carried out for the Government staff handling such data.”
  • Personal data shall not be erased once some subsidy or benefit is availed from Government schemes.
  • An audit log of central databases containing personal information to be developed to log the identity of the person/entity that accessed the personal data of an individual and the purpose for access.
  • In cases where data is shared with non-government research agencies and private sector, data should not be permanently retained for any purpose beyond the time permitted as per the terms of use, nor can the data be used for any commercial purpose.

Reviewing data privacy measures will be done by the EDGC. The DIDC will have to publish guidelines on how data may be shared, including data privacy measures. The CEO of the TNeGA will have to ensure data privacy of citizens, the TNDP said.

EDGC to decide on data sharing with third parties, pricing 

The EDGC chaired by the Chief Secretary will be responsible for —

  • Approving exceptions (subjects which are not covered in TNDP) in the areas of data creation, storage, sharing (including with third parties), usage, pricing, publishing, and adherence to data standards.
  • Recommending to the Government any corrective and preventive measures to be taken up to uphold the objectives of TNDP, based on recommendations of DIDC.
  • Approving changes/updates to the TNDP flagged by the IT department.
  • Taking Appellate action on any grievances from State user departments, citizen availing social welfare schemes and any State user department services against the decision of the DIDC.

DIDC to identify datasets under Open Governance Data initiative

“Under TNDP, each Department would nominate a Data Officer not lower than one level below the Head of Department to the Data Inter-Departmental Committee (DIDC) to be responsible for both open and non-open data,” the policy said. The Chief Data Officer (CEO of TNeGA) will be the head of DIDC.

Its work would include —

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  • Identifying legitimate and legal use of the datasets published in the State Open Data Platform, and demarcating the uses prohibited for shared public data. “For example, the shared open data may not be combined with other data, obtained privately or otherwise to extract Personal Identifiable Information (PII),” it said.
  • Publishing negative lists of datasets that cannot be shared due ‘to legal restrictions or policy decisions’
  • Publishing catalogs and resources on the Tamil Nadu Open Data Platform
  • Developing metadata catalogue
  • Working on data quality and refinement by taking up various survey methods
  • Act on grievances from state user departments, citizens availing social welfare schemes, etc

Why does Tamil Nadu need a data policy?

In the policy, the Tamil Nadu government reasoned that —

Data is currently disconnected: Currently access to systems and data in government are confined to individual departments “in a largely disconnected manner”. Government departments are yet to come up with mechanisms to quantify the data from reporting and decision-making standpoint, to have periodic audits and classify useful and redundant data, the policy added.

No common guidelines on data sharing: There is a lack of common guidelines on what data can be shared, how to make data available for use within and across departments, and what can be made available for external parties. There has been a limited use of data for impact assessment, monitoring, and mid-course corrections because of the lack of a policy, it said.

This post is released under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license. Please feel free to republish on your site, with attribution and a link. Adaptation and rewriting, though allowed, should be true to the original.

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