Emphasizing on data in a machine-readable format, the Economic Survey today shed light on interesting applications of data and how it can benefit individuals in their financial life.
While combining datasets will itself reap rewards, the benefit is limited if data is of uncertain quality, not amenable to easy processing, etc. Harnessing data consists of four steps – gathering, storing, processing and disseminating data, each of which offers room for improvement in India. “Unless data is in a digital, machine-readable format, its utility is limited. Paper records of data cannot be accessed by all stakeholders. Even if paper records of schemes are scanned and stored in a digital repository, they do not lend themselves to easy analysis. For data to serve its purpose, it needs to be transmuted into a digital, machine-readable form that can be downloaded and analyzed,” said the Survey, a day ahead of Union Budget.
Talking about applications, the Survey said that the Reserve Bank of India has announced the Non-Banking Financial Company-Account Aggregator (NBFC-AA). Even in the finance industry, an individual leads a complex financial life with their data spread across multiple providers.
“One may hold a bank account with State Bank of India, but take a loan from HDFC. Their mutual fund investments may be through Axis Bank, but their insurance is through LIC. They also have a credit card from Standard Chartered and use Motilal Oswal to invest in some stocks directly. In such a case, the data needed by the individual to piece together their own financial life is distributed across many data providers. The NBFC-AA allows users to pull that data together, for any purpose, the citizen requires,” the government document said.
This putting data together may be for personal finance management, or maybe to apply digitally for a new housing loan. The NBFC-AA neither reads data nor creates an invasive 360-degree dataset. “It simply enables citizens to demand their data from these institutions in a machine-readable format, so that it can be used by them meaningfully,” the Economic Survey said.
Another application is DigiLocker, which makes all documents available, in a verified format, in one place on the cloud. “Citizens only need an internet connected device, smartphone or computer to access the locker. It helps digitize downstream processes such as college admissions. For anyone who has had to retrieve a lost or missing document from the government or have to get photocopies “attested”, the DigiLocker experience is immensely more time-saving and user-friendly,” the Survey said. They do not have to live in the fear of their precious documents being lost to the elements or other misfortune, it added.