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Now, Indian govt wants to create data refineries using people's data

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wants India to create data refineries, and while the data seems to be connected to the commercialization of people's data that Indian government is hinting at for a while, the minister didn't elaborate his comments.

twitter-logo India Today Tech   New Delhi     Last Updated: January 22, 2020  | 09:56 IST
Ravi Shankar Prasad

Highlights

  • IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad believes that India can be a centre of data refining and many data refineries can be created here.
  • The minister did not elaborate what he meant by data refinery, but it seems to connected to commercialization of data.
  • The minister made his remarks at an event hosted by NIC (National Informatics Centre)

Data refinery what? We are also thinking on the same lines. Today IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that he wanted to see India become a top place for "data refineries". Although the minister did not clarify what he meant by term "data refinery" or "data refining," it seems that this could be connected to the Indian government plans to commercialize data generated by Indians.

The minister made his comments at an event hosted by NIC (National Informatics Centre). Information comes courtesy a tweet made from the minister's official Twitter account. "It is my great ambition that India should become a big centre of data analytics, data cleaning and data anonymization. I foresee India becoming a big centre of data refinery (and) data refining process. I want NIC to work in that direction," Prasad said in the video clip attached with the tweet.

It is not clear what the minister meant by "data refining" or "data refinery". It could be one of the two things. One, it is possible that the minister was talking about sorting and categorisation of information and big data analysis, something that companies like Google and Facebook often do in Silicon Valley. Maybe the minister wants India to become a leader in data analytics.

Or the minister was probably talking about the commercialization of data that Indian generate, an idea that has gained currency in the last few years. There are signs -- and reports -- that the Indian government wants to commercialize data generated by Indians for various purposes, including for commercial gains to the people who generate this data. The idea is that "data is the new oil" and that the data generated by people in a country can be used as a national resource.

Recently, there were reports that the Ministry of Electronics and IT, which Prasad heads, was considering rules that would force companies like Facebook and Google that have collected a lot of data from Indian users to provide this data to other companies at a fee.

The idea, something that Nandan Nilekani, the architect of the Aadhaar project, highlighted well a few years ago is that people should have the ability to sell or barter their data. In 2018, at a tech conference in Kerala, Nilekani had said that in India poor people should be able to sell their data for monetary benefits. For example, in return for giving access to their location data, which could be used for targeted advertisements, people should be able to get discounts from a restaurant or a shop. Similarly, in return for sharing some vital data that a user had created, he or she could be given hospital treatment at a lower cost, or an insurance policy with better coverage, Nilekani had suggested.

The Indian government too, it seems, is looking to sell processed data that has been anonymised to anyone willing to pay a good price. Last year, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways revealed that it sold vehicle registration data of Indians to 87 private and 32 government entities and earned Rs 65 crore.

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