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Years In the Making, India Delivers an Open Data Portal

BY Julia Wetherell | Tuesday, December 18 2012

Screengrab of Data Portal India homepage

India has joined in on the open data movement with Data Portal India, an initiative to provide transparency across a diverse array of governmental agencies. The new site comes on the tails of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, which was announced by the nation’s Department of Science and Technology earlier this year, and the 2005 Right to Information Act, a transformative piece of legislation that made government records accessible to ordinary citizens.

Now the portal, which launched earlier this year in beta, aims to open up even greater access. Modeled in part on the Data.gov site launched in the first year of the Obama administration, Data Portal India was built using the Open Government Platform, a collaboratively developed project by groups in the U.S. and India. Data is available for use by developers in apps, and anybody can request a specific dataset via the site’s feedback module. Specific interest communities are in place on the site for developers, as well as for those concerned with energy, education, rural issues, health, and agriculture.

A relatively small number of datasets that are currently available cover economics, civics, and science and technology. There is a surprising abundance of oceanographic data but so far nothing on infant mortality rate, for instance. As the Open Government Partnership blog observed in August, culling data from across India could prove unwieldy, where terminologies and standards differ between various states and agencies. Indian Telecom and IT Minister Kapil Sibal recently expressed his interest in building a Google-like platform for government services, consolidating independent departmental websites into a single web portal. In a generation, online data and services alike could be working in tandem to better life in India.