Open Government Data (OGD) and energy resources

Dissemination and Deliberation Workshop on
Open Government Data (OGD) and energy resources
Summary of Proceedings
Date: 8 July 2014: Time: 9:30 – 13:30
The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), with support from the World Wide Web
Foundation and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) organized a
dissemination workshop on ‘Open Government Data and Resources’ on 8th July 2014 at TERI,
India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.
The workshop sought to share the findings of TERI’s
study on ‘Open Government Data for Regulation of
Energy Resources’. The focus of this yearlong study was
on the upstream coal and oil & gas sectors India in India.
It identified governance challenges in the two sectors and
examined the status of availability and accessibility of
data towards improving the working of these sectors. This
workshop brought together stakeholders from the
government, industry, academia, think tanks and civil
society. The stakeholders enriched the study with their views and experience, particularly with
respect to the government policy on open data and issues in data collection within the
government, the linkages between Right to Information and Open Data, data issues in the
upstream energy, particularly on aspects that impact communities, and suggestions on
improving data availability and quality.
In the opening session, the importance of open government data as a tool, not only for good
governance but also for economic development was discussed. It was emphasised that for data
to be meaningful, it needs to be authentic, reliable, updated and relevant. The objective of
setting up the ‘Open Data Research Network’ was discussed as a means to ‘connect researchers
from across the world to explore the implementation and impact of open data initiatives’. The
research network through its various projects is expected to help understand the availability
and quality of open data in developing countries and how open data can be strengthened in
these countries. The Open Government Partnership was also discussed. This partnership was
launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for more open, accountable, and
responsive governments to citizens and has grown from 8 countries to 64 participating
countries. Under OGP, governments and civil society are actively involved and are working
together towards implementing open government reforms and online release of government
The first session discussed initiatives for opening up
government including the Right to Information Act, 2005
and the recent OGD initiative. The TERI presentation in
the first session on ‘Road to OGD in India’ introduced the
context of open government data, its history and trajectory
in India and worldwide. This presentation discussed the
Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 and discussed the
similarities and differences between RTI and the OGD
initiative. The presentation also delved into how RTI and
OGD can complement each other. The open data portal of the government of India and the
National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy, 2012 was also discussed to understand both the
utility and limitations of these initiatives in improving data availability in the country. As an
example of international initiatives, the Revenue Watch’s Resource Governance Index, 2013 was
discussed which examined India’s gas sector on parameters of transparency.
To set the context of open government data initiative in India, the Planning Commission
informed the participants that open government data was part of India’s larger e-governance
plan and that ‘it aimed at not only dissemination of data but also rendering service related to
use and utilization of data at affordable price’. In case of natural resources, amongst other
things, the focus of the government is on sharing GIS related information between different
government departments and agencies. Towards this, the role of Planning Commission is to
facilitate necessary convergence between all the government departments with the National
Informatics Centre (NIC) providing front end support. In the Planning Commission’s view,
open government data is expected to ‘enable transparency, accountability and timely delivery
of information to public that in turn will contribute in fostering innovation’.
The session focussed on some of the concerns regarding quality and reliability of data in India.
For instance, the issue of underestimations of the total gas reserves was discussed. In India, the
revised estimates suggest that the gas reserves were significantly higher than the initial
estimates. There are issues of inadequate reporting also. For example, countries like USA,
Germany and South Africa, have average reported cognizable crimes of 7000 per 100000
populations, while in India, the estimates are less than 200. These examples clearly suggest that
data in India is ‘unreliable, often fudged and wrong and
there are errors while aggregating data’. Some of the other
concerns with data include the issues of multiplicity of
data sources and multiplicity of departments with
different data sets. For instance, in case of data on
sanitation and expenditure on MNREGA, multiple and
varying figures are available. There is also a need to
improve the capacity of people, especially in data
collection and data provision. There are concerns relating
to the cumbersome process of data collection and interpretation. The participants opined that
India needs to adopt practices whereby data can be
intervention. There is a need to set up a better MIS
structure at grass root level with improved and
transparent methods for collection of data at source. OGD
can succeed only if there is an effective and timely MIS
system for end-to-end delivery of information. Overall, it
was agreed that while India has come a long way in the last ten years in terms of access and
availability of information on government activities to general public, there is still a long way to
go way.
The session also discussed the Right to Information Act and how it differs from the OGD
initiative. It was reiterated that the RTI works as an enabler that can provide a supportive
environment to initiatives like OGD to be implemented in India. However, RTI is much wider
in scope and it enables people to get access to information which is not available through OGD.
OGD on the other hand can help reduce the need for using RTI to get access to data. One of the
limitations of OGD, however, is that it is not supported by a statute. Therefore, while disclosure
of information under RTI is mandatory, it is not the case in open government data.
The experience and challenges in implementation of Right to Information Act, 2005 was
discussed in detailed. These challenges, it was felt, are likely to affect the open government data
initiative too. For instance, implementing agencies are not well versed with rules and guidelines
that should be followed in dissemination of information. While NIC has formulated elaborate
guidelines on uploading data on internet, in practice these guidelines are seldom understood or
followed. Although RTI supports proactive dissemination of information, government
departments are not clear on the relevant sections of the RTI Act. [Section 4 (1) (a) and Section
4(1) (b)] It is essential that the government departments classify available information into
‘positive’ and ‘negative’ class, whereby information in positive class should be disclosed to
public by the concerned department. A major challenge in developing OGD platform in India
would be the multiplicity of information and data sources. This is exacerbated by a lack of
coordination, with different departments working in isolation from each other. For users it is
often difficult to understand which data is more accurate or relevant.
The second session focussed on open government data with respect to the identified sectors –
coal and oil & gas. The TERI presentation on ‘Open
Government Data and Energy Resources’ discussed in
detail the study finding on actors and agents involved in
data in the coal and oil & gas sector, the state of data in
these sectors (classified as economic, physical,
environment and social), and the gaps in data including
issues of quality, timeliness, accuracy, etc. The
presentation discussed stakeholder views on issues in use
of data and also views on challenges in opening up government data. The study recommended
emphasised the need for greater transparency in the
working of government, and suggested steps to improve
the quality of data in the energy sector. Further, the study
also recommended some steps to improve the open data
portal of India.
It was agreed that a lot of data in the natural resource
sector does not exist. Mapping of several basins has not
been done. Even where such data exists, it is not easily
accessible. The situation is gradually changing, as informed by the Geological Survey of India
(GSI), with more geospatial data being made available to public. Giving effect to the proactive
disclosure requirement of RTI Act, GSI came out with its dissemination policy for published/
unpublished reports/maps data in 2009.
Participants also felt that coal sector faces several governance challenges which also impact the
availability of quality data on this sector. Significant amount of data has to be provided by
public sector and private sector companies. However, companies are often reluctant to share
certain kinds of data. This finally affects the quality and reliability of the aggregate numbers
shared openly through the coal statistics or through the data portal. There are no standard
formats for putting out data. There is therefore a need for standardization of formats for any
data sharing by these companies. Within the government, there are concerns as to what data
should be shared in the public domain and what should not be shared.
Some challenges of the of the research community in engaging with energy related data was
also discussed. There are many public and private agencies that are providing firm specific
data. However, there are significant variations across these sources and consequently, reliability
of data becomes a key issue. Further, data on certain variables are provided at much aggregated
levels making research using data at disaggregated level difficult. Due to unavailability of
relevant data, researchers often take the route of filling RTI. However, experience of researchers
shows that often there are several impediments in receiving data through RTI.
This session also discussed the specific data needs for community’s perspective. Where
significant population will be impacted, it is necessary to take community interests and impacts
into consideration and more importantly the rationale behind the various mitigation decisions
outlined in the environmental impact assessment reports need to be made public. Mine plan,
mine restoration/ rehabilitation plan, progress and compliance therein must be reported
publicly and in a regular manner. It was reiterated that if the above concerns are addressed
properly through open data, then OGD will be useful in better conservation and management
of natural resources, with lesser environmental and social externalities.
While data can be a useful tool for improving governance in energy sector, it is not sufficient. It
was felt that unless norms and networks of social engagement change; Open Government Data
is not likely to make a big impact. Thus, improved governance and better data go hand in hand.
Open Government Data (OGD) and energy resources
Venue: Seminar Hall, TERI, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi 110003, India
Date: 08 July 2014
09:30 – 10:00
10:00 – 10:15
Opening session
Welcome remarks
Dr Anindya Chatterjee, IDRC
Mr P K Agarwal, TERI
10:15 – 11:30
Session I: The road to OGD in India
The session would introduce the context of open government data in India, its
history and trajectory. This would include insights into relevance of and relationship
with RTI. While discussing the significance of data and information for improved
governance, this session would delve into the opportunities provided by existing and
new instruments, such as the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy in
furthering transparency in governance
Chair: Mr B N Satpathy, Planning Commission
Theme Presentation: Ms Veena Aggarwal, TERI
Panel Discussion
Dr Neeta Verma, NIC*
Mr Shailesh Gandhi, Former Information Commissioner, CIC
Mr Pankaj Shreyaskar, CIC
Ms Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative
11:30 – 11:45
Coffee break
11:45 – 13:15
Session II: Open Government Data in energy resources
This session would provide an overview of the state of data in energy resources (coal
and oil & gas). It would also discuss the main gaps that exist in data and
information in the identified sectors. Challenges faced by users in accessing data and
the government in providing data would also be discussed.
Chair: Mr S Vijay Kumar, TERI; Former secretary, Ministry of Mines
Theme Presentation: Ms Nidhi Srivastava, TERI
Panel Discussion
Dr P K Parui, Geological Survey of India
Dr M R Anand, Ministry of Coal
Mr R Sreedhar, Environics
Ms Lydia Powell, Observer Research Foundation
Dr Surender Kumar, University of Delhi
Funding for this work has been provided through the World Wide Web Foundation 'Exploring the Emerging
Impacts of Open Data in Developing Countries' research project, supported by grant 107075 from Canada’s
International Development Research Centre ( Find out more at