Better data for better governance & policy making
Nowadays, the debate on the quality of data is ongoing. Recently, considerable disparities in the National Crime Records Bureau and the Transport and Research Wing records have been found.
Not only this, rather, there has also been a significant anomaly in the data of the COVID epidemic. Our government departments are proving to be sloppy in terms of accurate data generation and dissemination. As a result, we cannot take the necessary steps on time.
For example, the magnitude of the second wave of COVID in the country could have been controlled with accurate data. At the same time, we could have organised our health system for better medical facilities for the COVID patients. Unfortunately, the government neither has details of deaths due to terrorism nor the prior information of the recent coal storage problem. For better administration, the creation, storage, and dissemination of accurate and advanced data at all levels of governance have become imperative.
All developed countries in the world are making better use of data for evidence-based policymaking. Moreover, the current year’s economics Nobel prizes acknowledge the importance of data.
For example, labor economist David Card did an experiment using data and showed that the increase in minimum wages does not negatively affect employment. Other economists Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens worked on methodology issues, which enable economists to draw concrete conclusions about cause and effect, even if they are not possible according to strict scientific methods.
Today, the damage to life, property, and infrastructure is being effectively prevented by the advanced information of hurricanes and earthquakes. In addition, data enables timely details on the lack of housing or the need for supplementary nutrition support to old-aged people.
Better data management can also curb corruption to a great extent, such as the US state of Colorado closely analysing its Medicaid prescription drug claim data and exploring evidence of fraud and abuse in opioid prescriptions.
Nations that are growing and moving on a large scale need an automatic and effective mechanism for policymaking. Policymaking in our country is often done through surveys and consultations, but there is a big gap between data collection and policymaking due to our country’s large population and diversity.
For example, the fourth National Family Health Survey was published in 2015-16 after ten years. Even our last census was conducted in 2011, which has already been ten years old. Similarly, there is a significant gap in the socio-economic caste census. As a result, we make rules for the old situation, which is not suitable for the present.
There are challenges of better data management that can be effectively fixed by technology. Surveys are the primary source of data collection in our country. A large team of employees and officers works for the survey. It becomes challenging to bring all the survey participants to a platform for streamlined data collection and better reporting with the number sizing.
Large quantities of data stored by different departments are not exchanged. Most of the data collected are not even readable by the machine. Skill development of local employees is needed along with good investment for the use of technology at the grassroots level. Technology must be used in a planned manner for accurate data from the ground level.
Our government is also striving for better data management and has taken several necessary steps. The National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy 2012 has been an important step that has facilitated the dissemination of non-sensitive data for scientific, economic, and social development programs and research and development activities.
In 2012 itself, data.gov.in domain was booked to provide a central repository of information to regular users. It has now become one of the pillars of the digital India mission. Past five-year plans have emphasised the need for continuous and accurate data collection procedures for various sectors such as health, natural disasters, agriculture, social development. The Dr. Rangarajan Commission report in 2001 also acknowledged the importance of data in public-friendly policy formulation.
Planned and effective use of technology is required to make the administration more transparent. Data collection and collection should be done in digital format. The central repository of data should be enhanced and modernized. Further, the data should be stored effectively and in a granular order to access data effectively. NITI Aayog is already working on a National Data Analytics portal planned to be a central repository of data for states and Union Territories.
Further, integrated storage should be done by exchanging various departments and ministries ‘ data using the application programming interface. At the same time, the accuracy of the data can be increased by verifying the data collected by various departments. Similar and compatible technologies are essential for data accessibility, data quality, and effective data exchange. At the same time, we need to focus on preparing the necessary human resources by promoting vital skill development programs. We are currently in the early stages of effective data management and have to go a long way ahead to effectively use data for better governance.
Guest author Prabhat Sinha is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of global IT MNC Intelligenz IT. He is an Amazon Bestseller author, entrepreneur, and international speaker. By education, Sinha holds MBA and LLB degrees from prestigious universities. He is an active columnist and writes on issues related to IT, commerce, entrepreneurship, international business, innovation and productivity.