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Dubai Data Law: Let’s share!

Published on : March 2016
Author(s):Zisha Rizvi

In October last year, Dubai introduced the new ‘data law’ which will allow the sharing of information between public sectors and for the benefit of the private sector. This Article aims to understand the concomitants of such a move.

Remember that time when a dial up icon popped up on your screen at the time you logged into internet connection and had to wait for the system to be connected to LAN? In contrast, all you need to do today is switch on your computer and it is automatically connected to the internet. In the coming years, technology is anticipated to be more intelligently integrated in our lives than it is today. Specialized software and sensors will be used to track resources, respond to crime or take constant vital signs.  In the words of technology maker Vint Cerf, ‘it is almost as everything will be connected to everything.’ The inherent risks that such wide exposure will pose to the public in general cannot be denied. But when the risk is compared to the magnitude of benefit the economy will have, it appears that the decision makers will be willing to take the plunge.

In 2013, Obama’s ‘open’ data policy saw a major breakthrough as the White House issued the Executive Order for open and machine readable government data thereby instilling a sense of transparency in government actions. In 2014, the President’s assent was concluded for the enactment of Digital Accountability and Transparency Act 2014 (US Data Law). 

The general principles under Section 1 of the Executive Order provides germane frame of reference for implementation of the Executive Order. It states as under:

“Decades ago, the U.S. Government made both weather data and the Global Positioning System freely available. Since that time, American entrepreneurs and innovators have utilized these resources to create navigation systems, weather newscasts and warning systems, location-based applications, precision farming tools, and much more, improving Americans' lives in countless ways and leading to economic growth and job creation. In recent years, thousands of Government data resources across fields such as health and medicine, education, energy, public safety, global development, and finance have been posted in machine-readable form for free public use on Data.gov. Entrepreneurs and innovators have continued to develop a vast range of useful new products and businesses using these public information resources, creating good jobs in the process.” 

‘Open data’ and need for its encouragement in the wider context

Open data means such information which may be available in a defined format for the use, re-use and benefit of the people. An understanding of the US concept of which data will be open data, required fulfilment of the following:

i. The data should be PUBLIC. This means that subject to applicable and legislative restrictions the data should be available publicly on a platform.

ii. The data should be RESUSABLE which means that there will be an ‘open license’ on the data with no restriction on the use and should be non-proprietary. 

iii. The date should be ACCESSIBLE which means that the format in which data is provided or published should be retrievable, downloadable and capable of being searched appropriately. To the extent possible, the resources                  should use granular metadata, data dictionaries, and characteristics of data.

As economies are getting more technologically adept, the concept of open data is expected to promote efficiency, interoperability, accessibility, accuracy and economic development wherever legally permissible.

Imagine the use of such data for monitoring public utilities, understanding the trends relating to utility consumption, managing traffic issues. Open data can provide deeper significance in understanding healthcare innovations, markets trends on commodity consumptions, education trends for starters. Advancements in the field of science, healthcare and education are more palpable when inferred from an inspiration. Relying on Wikipedia, the idea of software giant Microsoft was born when Paul Allen showed Bill Gates a publication on Altair 8800- a super computer.  This concept of ‘open date’ has gained much acceptance for innovators in technology, as there has to be reasoning for Facebook and Google to provide ‘open source’ for its artificial intelligence (AI)  hardware computing design.  These companies do not procure hardware from suppliers like Dell or HP but have inspired themselves to be self-efficient for their