|Title||Open government data for regulation of energy resources in India|
|Year of Publication||2014|
|Authors||Srivastava, Nidhi, Agarwal Veena, Bhattacharjya Souvik, Gopalakrishnan Tarun, Meenawat Harsha, Nayak Bibhu Prasad, and Soni Anmol|
|Institution||The Energy and Resources Institute|
The last decade in India has been the most important and eventful decade for access to information in India. Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005 can be seen as a landmark in the history of access to information in India. The last few years also witnessed the emergence of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) and an Open Government Data (OGD) portal in India. This study, undertaken by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) examines how better availability and access to data can help in governance of resource development, especially energy resources.
India is a resource-rich economy, with strong involvement of the public sector in energy industries. In 2009-10, the public sector accounted for 91% of total coal production, 86 % of crude petroleum and 77% of utilized natural gas. History shows that resource rich states are particularly susceptible to governance failures. While companies and governments benefit, the poor are left worse off despite the resources. As a result, OGD is particularly relevant for the energy industry in India, with the potential for data to be used in addressing a wide range of issues, from resource allocation, funding flows and corruption, through to environmental issues, health and safety, and the more effective and efficient use of natural resources in the country.
Effective natural resource governance also becomes crucial as the country looks towards more private sector and foreign investments. For instance, if natural resources are being allotted through a bidding process, the criteria of selection, information on bidders who submitted bid and who was finally selected should be put out for public scrutiny. In India, concerns have been raised regarding insufficient information on winning bids and final contracts for bid contracts (Sreenivas & Sant, 2009) under the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP). Similarly in the coal sector in India, major concerns have been raised on irregularities in coal block allocations. A CAG report of 2012 confirmed that very little progress has been made in production from the coal blocks awarded and this has resulted in a loss to the public exchequer. Questions have been raised over lack of transparency in the process of allocation of coal blocks.
Although some energy industry datasets have been made available on India’s OGD portal, there is a much wider, and complex, landscape of relevant data. Many different agencies are involved in collecting and collating data, with and without statutory basis, and often drawing on data requested from private firms. Whilst many sector specific legal requirements for data collection exist these laws are mostly silent on the dissemination of that data. Agencies often lack technical capacity to manage data effectively, and data is often neither timely, comprehensive nor sufficiently disaggregated. Similar datasets may exist from different agencies, with differences in method or accuracy leading to inconsistencies: making it hard for analyses to work out which data to trust. Users often turn to private sector data sources (from intermediaries who gather and clean government and non-government data), and data from international agencies. The growing usage of private supplier’s data and international agencies is a result of users’ dissatisfaction with the way data is organized and provided by government agencies.
Whilst the RTI Act in India has led to a considerable number of requests for data from energy-related government agencies, replies are generally not available as data in the public domain - being sent only to the requester. Ad-hoc data may also become available through annual reports from government departments, reports of committees and parliamentary Q&As, leading to a scattered data environment. A cultural of secrecy in the working of the government from the pre-independence days also persists, and in the energy industries particular challenges of data-sharing arise due to concerns about commercial confidentiality of data gathered from the private sector. Data is often only provided in PDF, rather then in ‘machine-readable’ formats, and data can be expressed in ways that make it difficult to understand.
In order to address the challenges of making open data available to support governance in energy industries in India this study recommends:
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