DailyPost 1784

Democracy is the art of providing maximum good to the maximum people. Data is the biggest asset class today. Information is processed data. If democracy is devoid of data or actionable data or all data that can and should be made available as a right to the people at large, what is the fate of democracy? Democratization of information / data means that all data which is not required by specific laws to keep confidential should be made open. The data needs to be comprehensive and complete and should not be in bits and pieces. The effort which goes in collection or collating that data should be minimal and more often than not, should be made available at the click of a mouse.

The health of data is pretty much our health , is well known by now. There is no democracy without democratization of data. Data leads to empowerment and is the simplest and surest mode to it. Data / information through authentic / official sources can be the best way to make public servants and even private entities accountable. The best way to hide and stay in your cozy and safe haven is to obfuscate data. If we see the recent and not so recent legal provisions and enablement of statutory authorities, it shows a very clear and discernible trend in this direction. The malaise is known and so is the solution, putting the two together is the challenge.

The battle of our lives is the battle for data. The enactment of the Right to Information Act was not the culmination of a battle but the beginning of war. The war is of legally snatching information / data and the other party creating ways and means to legally withhold it. The effort to get data should not become a wild goose chase. In lots of official / legal  arenas, the data provided is devoid of making any sense out of it at all or is outdated or it is not cross verifiable. The data hygiene of different data streams and information flows which go behind its final creation, is more relevant than the data finally provided, because its utility is dependent on it.

The sessions of the Union Legislature and that of the states, if provided with official data in real time and dynamic way, would make large chunks of  sessions futile. It would add to the quality of the debates and most importantly the data can be cross verified in the legislature itself at the click of a mouse. Large part of the effort in investigation and enquiries also revolve around the ready availability of authentic data.  An open data world is free world, opaqueness always has a purpose and a non-democratic one. The magic of the Suo moto powers of criminal case registration, public interest litigation and Suo moto powers of the courts would come to life, if it is supported by open data policy. The arduous nature of proceedings primarily because of non-availability of data / information is the real spoiler. If data does not serve the democratic purposes, then what else is it supposed to serve?


Sanjay Sahay

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