Sikkim was the first state to come up with its own Sikkim Open Data Acquisition and Accessibility Policy (SODAAP) on the lines of National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP). Continuing to lead Sikkim is now officially the first state to have its own data portal we are really happy to see this development and hope more states follow. DataMeet has been carrying consultations with officials of Sikkim in framing the policy and helping them with workshops and insights to use the data. Honorable Member of Parliament Dr. Prem Das Rai has also been our keynote speaker during the Open Data Camp 2015 at Delhi sharing experiences about the on-going work in Sikkim.
As emails were being pushed about the launch of the portal on 15th July, we were alerted about sensitive data being published through the data portal by Abhay Rana. Two datasets on the portal had sensitive information like 1) name, 2) religion, 3) caste, 4) father’s name, 5) mother’s name, 6) gender, 7) birth date, 8) residential address, and 9) information regarding disabilities (if any) of school children, teachers with additional detail of marital status for the teachers. We alerted both NIC and the chief data officer in charge for the datasets to get them taken down immediately. Open data does not promote any sensitive information being shared publicly and it violates the very core principles. We applaud the quick response by the data controller in response.
It was an unfortunate accident that sensitive information not to be published under the policy was shared through the data portal. NDSAP along with SODAAP has mandates for every department to make sure sensitive information has restricted access and is not to be published. This incident is not the first where we encountered sensitive information was being published by government officials. Most of the times such information is in the public domain by accident or due to lack of awareness among officials about type and parameters available under the datasets. More incidents like this can harm officials from publishing further data and is a threat to the ecosystem of open data.
As more and more data becomes part of the public domain it is important that we all can work together to ensure that we do not violate privacy or put up sensitive data. More guidelines and frameworks are needed to maintain and report sensitive data which is already public.
We request you to bring to our attention if any sensitive information is being published under the pretext of open data. For now explore the new data portal and use open data to bring positive change in your community.
Sikkim State Government passed an open data policy Sikkim Open Data Acquisition and Accessibility Policy in 2014. With pushing from the Chief Minister and Member of Parliament the Honorable Prem Das Rai they turned to open data to take control of the state’s data. The Honorable Mr PD Rai has repeatedly mentioned is the lack of access to government information on demand. It is not uncommon for lawmakers to ask questions only to have to wait a day or more for the answer and lose a moment to use that information for decision making.
An Open Data for Human Development Workshop was organized by the International Centre for Human Development of UNDP India, with the Centre for Internet and Society, AKVO, Mapbox and DataMeet co-facilitating the event in Bangalore last June. The aim was to bring together members of the Sikkim government, IT professionals, and open data enthusiasts.
In April before the workshop Sumandro (CIS) and I went to Sikkim to have a pre consultation with the Sikkim government on how to prepare for the large workshop in Bangalore. We met with the MP and the heads of the Rural Development, Health, and IT departments to discuss their plans to implement their open data policy. Then there was a large meeting with all the departments and the MP. We presented different things you can do when data is opened and offered suggestions for how to implement the policy. The departments took turns discussing their issues regarding implementation; concerns like server space, technology needs, how to create incentives to accurate and timely data uploading were shared.
We presented things for them to think about in a preparation for the June event and for how to work with the open data community in India.
In June the workshop was held as NIAS. Thej gave a session on data tools that can be used to assemble, clean, analyze, publish and visualize data. Some of the tools that he introduced and used during the workshop are
- Tabula Its difficult to extract data from PDFs. But Tabula allows you to extract that data into a CSV or Microsoft Excel spreadsheet using a simple, easy-to-use interface. Tabula works on Mac, Windows and Linux.
- Open Refine – is a powerful tool for working with messy data: cleaning it; transforming it from one format into another; extending it with web services; and linking it to databases like Freebase.
- DataWrapper allows you to create powerful charts very easily.
- CartoDB is the Easiest Way to Map and Analyze Your Location Data
“Overall interaction was great. Delegates from Sikkim were very interested in DataMeet community and work we do as community. Some part of the workshop was used to introduce the community aspect of Data.”
You can see the full notes of the event at Centre for Internet and Society’s blog.
We are looking forward to see Sikkim be the first state to implement an open data portal using the Data.Gov.In platform.