Ensuring Privacy While Utilizing Citizen Data in India

2019-11-22 - 2 minutes read

Using data from city citizens to advance government efficiency while maintaining their privacy appears to be a tough balancing act. One country where this challenge is coming to the forefront is India. In a recent paper by Nikita Kodali, Karen Sollins, and Chintan Vaishnav, the authors discuss the “dual trajectories” India is on, with nationwide pushes to improve municipal governance via better transparency and efficiency while also protecting privacy. For the latter, a 2017 Supreme Court Bench decision made data privacy a constitutional right. 

To help strike this balance, the authors analyzed “383,959 real citizen transactions across all services for the 112 urban local bodies (ULBs) for one state for all of 2018” in their paper, Not a Zero-Sum Game: How to Simultaneously Maximize Efficiency and Privacy in Data-driven Urban Governance. 

Due to the volume of the data analyzed, the authors were able to consider the Government Efficiency Index and the Information Privacy Index metrics (which they defined in a previous paper) at different levels of granularity. The other key component of their research was the “government-defined service level agreements that define acceptable completion times”, which enabled them to analyze completion times.

A photo of New Dehli. Image by photobom and licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Through their paper, the authors aimed to “validate the hypothesis that in the context of Indian municipal governance, the trade-off between government efficiency and privacy is not a zero-sum game; rather one can improve these seemingly contrasting forces simultaneously.” In doing so, they were able to identify “model” ULBs and concluded that ULBs with different sizes and using different services can all potentially maximize efficiency and privacy.

Learn more about this research and read the full paper via the following links: