Data Driven Government
In this 21st century of Digital Transformation, we often hear that Data is the new oil, data is the new fuel and data is the oxygen that holds immense untapped potential in it. Every second, individuals, as well as organizations, are generating a huge amount of data in the form of documents, images, videos, social media messages, search queries, news, and so on. Over a period, data has emerged as an important asset for the development of any country and is also the driver for a digital economy. It is also a reality that data is not a recent discovery, however, it has taken the center stage in recent times and is a key discussion point of any deliberation be it in government, industry, academia, or startups. Two elements have contributed to these data-driven insights. Firstly, the availability of high-speed networks and broadband penetration across the length and breadth of the country has led to a lot of data generation on a real-time basis. Earlier, the processing and analysis of this data was a tedious and time-consuming task as advanced data analytics tools were not available, however, with the advent of cloud computing, there has been a significant transformation in this direction. Thus, the cloud has emerged as another important element, providing access to high-speed computing, storage, and its pay-peruse model which has truly democratized the access to these resources and further accelerated the process of data analysis and visualization.
Data is also fundamental and acts as a backbone to the applications of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in any initiative. Almost every business model today is generating a lot of data and it is noteworthy that some new businesses have completely grown out of data. Big tech platforms of today are also heavily relying on data to cull out meaningful and actionable insights, thereby changing the way businesses have conducted themselves earlier.
In Government, the most traditional use of data analysis has been the statistical analysis of data collected through various surveys, census, indices, etc. In the traditional methodology, the insights generated from the analysis of the available data were provided to government authorities for effective policy formulation or planning of new programmes, schemes as well as preparation of the budget of the government. With the launch of the Digital India Program and Six years since its launch, a wide range of government initiatives and schemes (Central as well as State) are today making extensive use of data and employing best-in-class analytical tools to derive value out of this data. Right from the concept to formulation, implementation to the monitoring of a scheme, data is now being extensively used in almost every aspect of a project or initiative. For instance, data is at the core of many flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat Mission, Housing for all, One Nation One Ration Card, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Fertilizers Distribution, to name a few. NIC’s in-house developed tool called Darpan has helped many ministries and organizations by extracting data from various IT systems and create dashboards and insights from this data. Similarly, Prayas is monitoring the progress of the flagship programmes of the government based on defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Almost every sector of the socio-economic development of our country is influenced by the prowess of data. For instance, data can prove to be highly useful for the formulation of poverty alleviation schemes as well as subsidy distribution schemes. Various schemes of the government such as the MGNREGA, Pensions Scheme, Farmers Subsidy, Benefits for unorganized labor, Scholarships, etc. can make use of data analytics to identify the right beneficiary, understand their socio-economic status, and use technology solutions for timely dissemination of benefits, etc. These programmes are touching the lives of millions of citizens in India and thus ensuring equitable and rightful distribution of benefits would create a huge positive impact, contributing to the upliftment of society.
Similarly, fields like Criminal Justice and Judiciary can consume data to analyze crime patterns, locate the criminal networks and hotspots of potential crimes, etc. This would help the authorities take corrective measures and prevent any such incidents from happening. Data is extremely valuable in fraud prevention also. Many financial systems today are employing data to detect fraudulent activities and it is now suggested to integrate a fraud detection module while setting up any financial system.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, data has been extensively used for contact tracing, prediction of hotspots, trends analysis, and take appropriate measures to curb the spread of the virus. Data was also used for the management of hospitals and the supply of essential medicines and essential goods to citizens at large.
We have witnessed that data is emerging as the key resource of a Digital Economy. Citizens, organizations, and society at large will benefit from the democratization of data as it will become usable to anyone to derive insights and build inclusive solutions for the development of our society. However, various researches also suggest that much of the data is still not analyzed and has huge untapped potential. One of the major challenges right now is the fact that data is currently residing in silos and thus to unleash the true potential of this data, various IT systems must collaborate and operate in a symbiotic fashion. The National API Exchange Platform set up by NIC is supporting a safe and secure flow of data between different systems, basis the mutual understanding of the participating entities. The need of the hour is to understand the significance of good quality data and employ it for the betterment of society.
Dr Neeta Verma
Director General, NIC