The data can promote social welfare, empower it.

NEW DELHI: The government made a strong launch to use data and analysis for social welfare and the empowerment of citizens, and also advocated a greater commitment to the private sector in the processing of non-confidential information. However, he said that a focus on the user's consent and privacy should be the cornerstone of the effort to make it a safer process.

In the spirit of Constitution of India, data “of the people, by the people, for the people” must therefore become the mantra for the government,” the survey said. “… economic theory predicts that economy should have, by now, seen a surge in efforts to harness and use data . This has indeed happened, but only partially.”.

It said while private companies have harnessed user data as a profitable business model, a lot still needs to be done in many social-welfare areas where the government should step in. “… government intervention is required in other areas where private investment in data remains inadequate. The social sectors of the economy, such as education and healthcare, have lagged the commercial sectors in exploiting data … To ensure that the socially optimum amount of data is harvested and used, the government needs to step in, either by providing the data itself or correcting the incentive structure faced by the private sector, depending on the nature and sensitivity of data .”

Privacy of data , however, needs special focus as efforts towards harvesting information get stronger, the survey said.

The survey also said while there is a fair amount of information that is already collected about citizens, such as birth and death records, tax statements, census data , and health and education information, they are not harmonised and collated together to bring out confirmed trends. “Data collection in India is highly decentralised… if these different pieces could be put together, we would find that the whole is greater than the sum of parts.”

On fears that government may misuse and get unbridled powers through the huge citizen data base, it said, “… this is far from the truth. First, large quantities of data already exist in government records, and the objective is only to use this data in a more efficient way.”

As existing paper records get digitised, there is a need for a parallel initiative to convert very process of data collection into a digital one, as agsinst collecting on paper first and converting to a digital format later.

On giving certain kinds of data to private companies, it said this should be done with all necessary security safeguards.