Learner’s Submission: Online Public Services in India – Statistical Datasets

“In my earlier essay I had introduced the website data.gov.in. I would like to explore the information and scope of relevance of information/datasets being made available through the above website.

Datasets we accessed were authentication details and number authentication requests being made to UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India), Statistical information brought out by NSS (National Sample Survey), CSO (central Statistical Organization) and Marine and Geographical Information made available through a interactive interface embedded into website.

UIDAI, datasets reveals more than 745000 authentication requests have been made. The authentication requests, details of the UIDs sought are not released. The NSS datasets are those that stimulated our interests as they are more relevant to our line of work. We explored three documents:

The first is the 54th survey of NSS pertaining to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in India. The sample survey covering time span of January – June 1998, claims to have surveyed 10974 villages. The scope of this survey has been cleared explained which covers issues of right to access, distance from residence, provisions for sanitation and drinking within residential premises. The clear data on rural and urban households and their practices are clearly elaborated and condensed into percentages which provide clear information for the reader. The provision for downloading the questionnaire, scope details, and individual chapter through separate links through the website makes this a helpful aid for policy analysts. Improvements and disagreements on the structure of the survey could then be communicated directly to the concerned ministry without much hassles associated with the offline data acquisition processes and based on official records. A much awaited official online record system has been facilitated. For citizens, this would help informing themselves about their society and make informed choice on, who, should rule them and why not?

NSS has provided extensive amount of data through the data.gov.in. They have provided access to various survey reports that cover unorganized sector in services, unorganized sector in manufacturing and Health survey. Without any authentication framework and making available this information to all visitors of the website is something of a dream for information miners, who use this data for analysis and articles for various publication or journalism. The fact that the website has the official seal makes this an authentic source of legitimate information which may be used for either policy suggestions or policy formulations.

The other most interesting feature of the datasets accessible is the marine and geographical information being accessed through an embedded feature. The map of India would show information on marine temperatures, buoys, coastal ports and other climatic information. The delay (in Seconds/minutes) in streaming this data onto our desktop is
something that is not clear. The loading of the feature is cumbersome; some of the features don’t load completely and are difficult to comprehend. Design wise the entire exercise requires a few testing and re-testing. As relevance of the data is difficult to gauge given the technical terms being used on the console makes it difficult to navigate through the satellite information being streamed. It would be nice to have an open access to ‘marine radar’ which then be re-packaged by web masters to provide fishermen real-time data on where they’ll have greater chance of better catch. We will work on that.

We would like to see better front end, as we found the ‘contact us’ and ‘link to us’ provision of the website were too lethargic to respond and sometimes require repeated refreshing to be viewed. The fact that they use MySQL as backend may be a handicap as the number of requests for the website will increase in coming days. The concerned authorities should immediately and in time bound manner undertake scaling of technology and upgrade the interface. The Interface is clumsy and appears to require some aesthetic interventions, as searching for relevant links is still an expedition rather than easily apparent. The authentication framework should be allowed for serious users like media professionals, policy practitioners so that they may have better access. Premium services would provide for maintenance of website and backend infrastructure. The government should also explore government – enterprise partnership, PPP, issuance of bonds, advertising to make this provisioning public knowledge. Involvement of private sector should provide a lot of expertise and resources to further the goal of transparency and access to datasets to commoner at no cost.” – Anil Dev Gopalakrishna – Karnataka, India

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