2.2. Methodology - Data Intermediary Organisations
In this study, a “data intermediary organisation” is conceptualised as an organisation that shares data for its access, consumption and re-usage (including re-sharing) by other organisations and individuals. Three further clarifications are needed here:
- Sharing of data by such organisations can either be done on a commercial or a non-commercial basis,
- Shared data can either be sourced from an external creator and publisher of data (either government or private agencies), or be created by the data intermediary organisation itself, and
- The data intermediary organisation may or may not add (or reduce) value of the data before sharing it further, that is it may or may not modify the data received by them (by cleaning up, re-organising, re-formatting, aggregating, etc.) before sharing it.
This study recognises that given the lack of (hierarchical) depth of the (government and non-government) data access and usage ecology in India, often the same organisation (especially the smaller organisations) are compelled to undertake multiple data-related functions internally. Instead of categorising organisations that we will study as “data creating and publishing organisation,” “data intermediary organisation” and so on, the study identifies the functions performed by the organisation concerned. It surveys several (but surely not all) organisations that mediate access to and use of government data in India. Many of these organisations are expected to perform multiple data-related functions such as creating data, directly using data to inform organisational activities, sharing the data with other organisations and citizens in general, training other organisations and individuals to use (collect, analyse, etc.) data, etc. However, an organisation can be understood as a “data intermediary organisation,” in the context of this study, if it considers (and its activities reveal) “data intermediation” as one of its key functions. Since a direct understanding of the primary function(s) of an organisation is often difficult to obtain, this problem is approached through various questions (in the conversation with the organisation concerned) so as to triangulate towards the identification of its various functions.
But most importantly, the objective of this study is not to evaluate the surveyed organisations and understand if they are “data intermediary organisations” or not, but to understand their experiences in accessing and sharing (so as to mediate access) government data, and what opportunities and challenges they face in functioning as “data intermediary organisations.”