The Indian government, in collaboration with the United States, has launched earlier this year the project Open Government Platform (OGPL), where government data, documents, tools and processes are made publicly available in an open source format. This initiative is meant to allow analysts, media, academics and civil society to make use of public data more easily and to develop innovative tools and applications to better monitor the public administration. According to the National Informatics Centre (NIC), the government body in charge of developing this platform, the goal of this initiative is to democratise access to public information and to promote innovation and civic involvement, and at the same time contribute to increase the accountability and transparency of the government.
The rationale behind this initiative is that government collects and retains a large amount of information (such as surveys, census, planning, assessment and delivery of public services), yet a large part of this information is not accessible to the general public and the civil society through classical means of communication. The project was developed in conformance to the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP), which determined that all government departments shall release their datasets in open format for citizens and other stakeholders to freely use and reuse. In order to guarantee the feasibility of the implementation of the policy, the NIC was under the obligation of providing the necessary technology solution for the establishment of an open data portal.
The data portal, however, is only a part of the OGPL, which was devised to simplify the access and management of public data not only from the side of citizens, but also from the perspective of government agencies. The platform offers ministries and departments a common management system through which the data is uploaded and later processed to be presented in a standardised format to the public.
In addition to facilitating top-down communication between the government and the citizens, the platform also encourages horizontal networking and grassroots initiatives. Through citizen engagement modules, users are able to discuss online the kind of datasets that government should release and also what kind of applications could and should be developed based on these datasets. This interactive component is expected to provide firsthand information to the government and also to developer communities on the public demand for information and analytical tools, based on which these actors could better prioritise where to concentrate their efforts.
According to an article published by News Track India, OGPL has been developed as a result of the U.S.-India Open Government Dialogue initiated in 2010 by President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. On the official website, the initiative is characterised as “an example of a new era of diplomatic collaborations that benefit the global community that promote government transparency, citizen-focused applications”. By the end of 2012, the platform will be available globally, and the features should also be available to other governments that might want to implement similar initiatives.