- Covering the gaps in the game of data
There have been various instances in 2020-21 where government has faced the heat of having no data on many important issues such as migrant labourers, workers in the unorganised sector, poverty data, etc.
World Bank’s 2020 poverty report highlights how absence of poverty data in India — junked by the government in 2019 — makes real assessment of world development skewed.
GS-II: Governance (Governance, Transparency, Accountability)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Introduction to Data and its importance
- Data-based policymaking
- About the inadequate implementation of Data Sharing platform in India
- Way Forwards
Introduction to Data and its importance
- In a digital economy, data is the central resource and Data is being considered as a nation’s new wealth.
- How data is employed fruitfully, and its value captured, decides a nation’s rank in the emerging new global geo-economic and geo-political hierarchies.
- Publishing accurate data and facts about various social, political and economic indications of the country is important for the effective working of a democracy. It is also an example of good governance.
- It holds the government accountable for its actions while giving a clear picture of ground realities, which in turn will help in policymaking.
- Right to Information is very crucial for any democracy and inadequacy of data hampers the very idea of democracy.
- The unsatisfactory state of India’s data collection and processing system is among the many systemic deficiencies exposed by the pandemic. It was highlighted by the recent upward revisions to the COVID-19 death toll in some States.
- In general, on every issue encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the migrants’s travails to the inadequate fiscal package, lack of reliable data in the public domain has hampered the search for policy alternatives.
- Data-based policymaking or budgeting is meant to facilitate the use of evidence to inform programmatic funding decisions. The goal is to further invest in what works to improve outcomes for citizens.
- Data-based decisions can redress inter and intra-district inequalities through targeted resource allocations.
- States collect enormous amounts of administrative data. However, these administrative data are often not validated.
- However, data-based governance needs the existence of reliable, rigorous and validated data with or without demonstrated impact or outcomes.
- If governance decisions are to be data-centric, there is a need to ensure a good, robust and reliable database.
- Along with the need of reliable database, in order to ensure transparency, there is also the need for governments to disseminate public data in open digital formats. Making government data accessible online is a step towards accessibility, awareness and transparency, and also helps in the search for policy alternatives.
About the inadequate implementation of Data Sharing platform in India
- In India, a step towards making non-sensitive government data accessible online was taken in 2012 with the adoption of the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP). However, the implementation has lagged far behind its stated objectives.
- The main thrust of the policy is to “promote data sharing and enable access to Government of India owned data for national planning, development and awareness”.
- The implementation guidelines for NDSAP include lofty ideals such as “openness, flexibility, transparency, quality” of data, and aim to facilitate “access to Government of India shareable data in machine-readable form”.
- The guidelines prescribe open digital formats suitable for analysis and dissemination. Opaque formats such as the portable document format and the image format are discouraged. As part of the Open Government Data (OGD) initiative, data.gov.in, was launched in 2012.
- In the current climate, the OGD initiative could potentially have made a substantial difference to India’s COVID-19 response. Had the district-wise, demographic-wise case statistics and anonymous contact traces been released in the public domain, reliable model forecasts of disease spread and targeted regional lockdown protocols could have been generated.
- While there is a critical need to link the databases of various departments, it is not easy as territorial jurisdictions and household-level identifiers are likely to vary from department to department.
- There is a need to bring some mechanism to homogenise these various data sets with a single identifier.
- More importantly, there is a need to validate these data sets through urban local bodies and rural local bodies.
- Accurate collection, measurement and interpretation of data are critical for data-based decision making to be successful.
- However, this is filled with challenges for as much as data is used, it also gets misused, abused or even manipulated.
-Source: The Hindu