‘No data’ and other tactics: How the government is dodging RTI queries on health pacts with Big TechAbdul Gh Lone 9 December 2023 0 COMMENTS
In April last year, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Jodhpur, and Microsoft India announced a collaborative project on remote healthcare. In February, the central health ministry’s telemedicine platform e-Sanjeevani, hosted on the Amazon Web Services’ cloud, reported having served 10 crore patients. Tamil Nadu, meanwhile, has partnered with Google for its Population Health Registry, aimed at creating a comprehensive health database of the state’s population.
These are all agreements involving technology behemoths, public resources, taxpayer money, sensitive health data and critical services that serve all Indians. Yet, the fine print of these collaborations is not available in the public domain.
The authors of this article found that the government stonewalled Right to Information queries seeking information on contracts between public authorities and private technology companies on digital health initiatives. Though the Right to Information Act as well as the judiciary have emphasised transparency, public authorities employed a range of tactics to refuse data from claiming that it was “personal information” to transferring and disposing of applications.
This does not bode well for public health or the public interest. Partnerships with “Big Tech” companies have often sparked data privacy and transparency concerns, such as the misuse of data to profile users or for commercial purposes. There is…