eGov Foundation partners with J-PAL South Asia to improve government service

eGov Foundation is a egovernance provider through their DIGIT platform used in egovernance by urban local bodies.

JPAL - The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) is a global research center working to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. Anchored by a network of 261 affiliated professors at universities around the world, J-PAL conducts randomized impact evaluations to answer critical questions in the fight against poverty.

The partnership smells very bad and seemingly approves of a practice of accessing data through the IT vendor - when the data belongs to people of individual cities. Even non-personal data that are shared in aggregate, is the collective ownership of people, entrusted with the urban local body. It is indeed sad that an instituition having top professors around the world is indulging in entering partnership with IT vendor to access data, denying peeople data rights. If data is needed for academic research, there should be more openness around the data that is needed, outputs of research. But the very practice of seeking data for research from IT vendor is setting a very bad example. This stoops one level below the previous jobs data study in 2018, when govt gave data access exclusively for one set of researchers.

The Aayog gave Ghosh and Ghosh access to around 60 gigabytes of EPFO database that included employees’ names, dates of birth, permanent account numbers, provident fund contributions, and industry names, for a period between January 2015 and November 2017
‘Independent’ 7 Million Jobs Study on EPFO Data Was Carried out With Government Help

I am assuming loads of good faith here and not dwelving into conflicts of interests etc and wondering if there is a need to educate an instituition with top economists including nobel laureates about data rights and ethics in digital world. What would be a good way to go about this ? Thoughts welcome.

All this when India doesn’t have data protection bill, couple of reports on Non-personal data but no statutory provisions around data sharing, esp by IT vendors