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  Social Responsibility

Government and Policy
Published on: Feb. 13, 2020, 10:03 p.m.
Bringing about lasting changes
  • NITI Aayog and the Andhra Pradesh government have created a dashboard to monitor real-time progress of the districts. Source: Tata Trusts

By Business India Editorial

In order to move towards ‘a world that counts’, as emphasised by the UN Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, the importance of accurate, transparent, integrated and real-time data collection and analysis mechanisms cannot be undermined. Because of its detail, timelessness, ability to be used for multiple purposes at scale, and to make large portions of low-income population visible, the potential for data driven development is unprecedented.

Tata Trusts forayed into the world of data driven governance in 2015 through development and deployment of the delta (Data, Evaluation, Learning, and Technology & Analysis) framework of micro planning, as a tool to drive ground up participatory planning. The delta framework integrates new age technology with traditional Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methods, thereby creating a resource envelope for local development needs of rural communities, and supporting decision makers for targeted allocation and delivery of government schemes.

The three distinct phases of implementing the delta methodology include phases, such as:

Design: Developing programme/issue-specific outcome indicators and performance benchmarks, and collecting data through a technology enabled data intelligence application;

Development: Putting together need-based, community vetted village development plans (VDPs), visualisation of VDPs through dashboards and deployment of VDPs through the local administration;

Delivery: Establishing convergence with government schemes, live tracking through dashboards, real time analytics feeding into decision-making, and impact evaluation through periodic data collection.

The delta framework of planning has seen a reasonable amount of success in the four pilot locations of Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh), Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Balasore (Odisha) and Noamundi (Jharkhand), resulting in a rich repository of development indicators for 1.5 million people in India. This has resulted in 1,200 village development plans (VDPs), available in the form of interactive dashboards for use by decision makers and policy makers. As many as 780 VDPs have been adopted by the administration to determine focus areas and roll out associated schemes. Phase II (ensuring access to last mile linkages) of the pilot conducted on two locations (Balasore and Chandrapur) led to a leverage of Rs270 crore from flagship government schemes, resulting in optimal utilisation of government funds. Governments, parliamentarians and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are beginning to note the revolutionary potential of data-driven governance and are now keen to implement the framework at scale.

The ‘Transforming Aspirational Districts’ (TAD) Initiative of the government of India is a major policy initiative, which would enable rapid transformation of 115 districts that have been consistently ranked low on the human development index. The initiative is geared at generating a spirit of competition within districts by benchmarking their performance on a pre-defined frequency for a set of 49 indicators, which may be stated as low hanging fruits in the development parlance. Evidence-based performance improvements will form the basis for the ranking of the aspirational districts, while creating a learning cohort, which creates cross pollination of best practices across districts. This, in turn, is complemented by effective convergence of central and state sponsored schemes, focus on efficient and need based funds utilisation and focus on transparent governance mechanisms to transform the said districts in a time bound manner.

NITI Aayog is delegated with the responsibility of anchoring the programme in consultation with respective Central government ministries and state governments. To provide directed mentorship, 115 identified districts have been allocated to Central ministries (50 districts), ministry of home affairs (35 districts) and remaining 30 districts with NITI Aayog. Further, senior government officials of the rank of additional secretary and joint secretary have been designated as officers-in-charge to co-ordinate the efforts of the Centre and states to address the specific developmental needs of these districts.

As a part of this, NITI Aayog and the Andhra Pradesh government have created a dashboard to monitor real-time progress of the districts, with 49 indicators with 81 data points under five key areas of health & nutrition, education, agriculture & water resources, financial inclusion, skill development and basic infrastructure having been chosen. Data is collected by designated officials within the district as well as directly on a random basis through third party agencies. NITI Aayog has engaged Tata Trusts in this programme, allotting 85 districts to play third party role in data validation.

Scientific survey

The Trusts are using the delta methodology to create a data layer for the tad Initiative in order to assist NITI Aayog to achieve its objectives. In this regard, a scientific survey methodology is being developed to collect primary data from the districts to develop a real-time monitoring mechanism. Some 84,000 households are being surveyed across 4,032 villages in these districts. Basing on the insights emerging from the exercise, the Trusts will also enable the development of targeted ‘district action plans’ to feed into the administration’s planning process during the course of the engagement.

Another aspect of the TAD initiative is Village Social Transformation Foundation (VSTF) in Maharashtra. The aim is to reform villages affected by natural calamities drought and other social, economic, livelihood, connectivity and infrastructural challenges in Maharashtra into ‘model villages’. VSTF works towards creating an inclusive growth model for scaling up and transforming villages in rural Maharashtra towards sustainable development with focussed effort to provide last mile service delivery.

Tata Trusts are the partners to provide financial resources to the foundation, along with domain knowledge and expertise to bring about lasting change in key development areas. The foundation’s objectives are to transform 2,500 least developed villages in Maharashtra, by providing hard and soft infrastructure and quality last mile service delivery; bring about behavioural change to empower villages to be self-sustainable; and build an innovative development model that will be scalable across India by 2019.

The use of data in governance has far-reaching consequences. It helps to find out the key issues afflicting people, leads to transparency, accountability, better fund utilisation and monitoring the progress of government schemes that intend to improve the lives of beneficiaries. Most of all, it helps in effective implementation of programmes at scale, which is critical to the success of any government scheme.

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