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Need to open up government data to public: Sam Pitroda

Source: CIOL, 30-Jan-2013

NEW DELHI, INDIA: Sam Pitroda, adviser to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, ON Tuesday called for "democratisation of information" and "opening up of government data" to the public. Addressing a Broadcast Engineering Society function, the technocrat said broadcasting should be seen in the light of "democratisation of information ... opening up of government data". He suggested that the 12th plan document could be put up on social media. "We should take the document to see if we can put it in the social media, to convert it to human stories... After all, it is the people's plan, not the government's," he said.

He said there were many in the government who were not willing to put the data in public domain. "They think it is government data... There is huge resistance to opening up the system," the National Innovation Council (NIC) chair said. Pitroda, who pioneered the telecom revolution in the country, said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had allocated Rs.100,000 crore for creating public information infrastructure.

India is living in "exciting times" and the next few years will see every home in the country connected to broadband and possessing smartphones and tablets, said Pitroda.

He said Indian broadcasting had grown over the years and the vision would be to see "can I create a BBC of India out of DD (Doordarshan) and AIR (All India Radio)" and suggested that the huge archival material that both the public broadcasters possess on Indian traditions, art and culture be made public. "...We have a huge task of looking at the archival material and throwing it open to social media," he said. According to Pitroda, the television media lacked discipline and stressed on Bollywood, cricket and gossip with very little developmental agenda.

Pitroda also said that with 550 million people in India below the age of 25, it was imperative for broadcasters to recognise them "as the customer of the future and plan accordingly".

"Keep the young in mind while developing for the future," he said. He said the National Knowledge Network, a step towards creating a knowledge society without boundaries, had connected 1,500 network nodes around the country, of laboratories and R&D institutes, which was only 10 percent of the capacity.

"Knowledge is the mother of networks," Pitroda said, and added that the UPA government was to spend $2 billion to connect villages.

"By the end of this year, around 250,000 panchayats would be connected by optical fibre," he said, adding that the Unique Identification Authority of India platform and the Geographical Information System platforms being created by the government, among others, were to be all part of a huge central data platform.

"Ten thousand software engineers are working in the government of India to build this platform." The data network would help in governance, health and education, among others, he said.

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