U.S., India Announce Plan for Creating Open Data Platforms

21 July 2011

The United States and India July 19 announced plans to jointly develop “open source” platforms for other governments to use to post government data.

The software will be available by the first quarter of 2011, according to one paragraph in a fact sheet on of bilateral science and technology understandings issued while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting India.

The open data software plan is described in two sentences:

“Data.gov”:  As part of the India-U.S. Dialogue on Open Government launched in November 2010, the two countries have committed to jointly develop an open source “Data.gov” platform by the first quarter of 2012 to be taken to interested countries globally.  Leveraging the high technology strengths and the democratic commitment to robust civic engagement of both India and the United States, this “open source” platform will provide citizens access to Government information via a user-friendly website and a package of e-Governance applications to enhance public service delivery.

The dialogue was coordinated by Innovation Advisor to the Indian Prime Minister Sam Pitroda and United States Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra.

With open source software, the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed with or without modification.

No further details were available.

This initiative is separate from the Open Transparency Partnership from which India recently withdrew. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Background of Initiative

President Obama on Nov. 7, 2010, pledged approximately $1 million to the effort and the Indian government promised a matching commitment of in-kind assistance in support of the transparency effort.

A fact sheet issued at the time stated in part:

To that end President Obama and Prime Minister Singh announced:

The Creation of a U.S.-India Dialogue on Open Government

Recognizing both nations’ commitment to making government information available to the end of improving government effectiveness and efficiency, the two countries agreed to establish an Open Government Dialogue with designated senior officials from each country. In addition to the exchange of best practices in support of our own domestic efforts, the Dialogue will produce, a joint action plan to harness the shared values of both countries which will offer great potential for synergies moving forward. Examples include the identification of best practices in open governance, the use of prizes and challenges to encourage the creativity of citizen innovators in developing web-based and mobile tools for better delivery of citizen services and citizen empowerment; and e-governance initiatives to promote data transparency and citizen engagement.

A Commitment to Work Together to Advance Open Government Globally

The United States and India agreed to work jointly, as part of the Open Government Dialogue, to develop approaches to facilitate the advance of open government, including mechanisms to share best practices, encourage collaborative models, as well as to spur innovations that empower citizens, and foster effective government in other interested countries. Both governments agreed to support public/private partnerships which will allow the engagement of public, private and philanthropic sectors and resources in bringing innovation to government and strengthening democratic institutions.

The announcement came after the president, during his visit to India, spent 30 minutes touring an exposition put on by 10 Indian open government groups about innovations in access to information.

In remarks to the Indian parliament, Obama mentioned the initiative, stating:

Now, in a new collaboration on open government, our two countries are going to share our experience, identify what works, and develop the next generation of tools to empower citizens.  And in another example of how American and Indian partnership can address global challenges, we’re going to share these innovations with civil society groups and countries around the world.  We’re going to show that democracy, more than any other form of government, delivers for the common man — and woman.

Open Data Focus

The resulting initiative so far appears focused on the open data area. 

Not mentioned in the most recent announcement was a somewhat different concept – “to support the work of Indian civil society in sharing their best practices abroad” — which was articulated in a blog post concurrent with the original announcement, written by Samantha Power, Senior Director and Special Assistant for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the White House. She wrote:

In support of this effort, we announced at today’s expo an initial commitment of approximately $1m to support the work of Indian civil society in sharing their best practices abroad, with a matching commitment of in-kind assistance by Sam Pitroda that will harness India’s technical expertise to assist governments in harnessing technology, improving services, and enhancing democratic accountability. This is precisely the kind of “partnership built on shared values” that President Obama has hailed during his visit to India.

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