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The possibilities of data

Mallika Ahluwalia 29 December 2021

Photo: People waiting for a train in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Travel Wild

Dear Friends,

This has been a tough year. COVID-19 tore through our families in the second wave and left us all shaken. The pandemic also exacerbated vulnerabilities of the most marginalized populations across the country. As we collectively work towards solutions, it is ever more important we use data to allocate finite resources and ensure programs effectively meet people’s pressing needs.

Our IDinsight partners sit on a wealth of data. The administrative and programmatic data that governments and civil society collect daily have tremendous potential to unlock insights. Much of this potential is not being leveraged today. In addition to our work with survey data, IDinsight is focused on unlocking this potential for our government and civil society partners.

Through our partnership with the Aspirational Districts Program we are taking a holistic view on administrative data quality. For example, we are improving data at the source by supporting the government to refine existing processes through which administrative data is verified by thousands of field workers. Simultaneously, we are running algorithms that can quickly detect anomalies in the data. The aim? To help leaders make informed decisions with data they trust. We are also improving data pipelines for our NGO partners who collect vast amounts of data through their field teams and need to ensure it is of high quality and consistent to make programmatic decisions, especially when operating at scale.

Once generated, the data still needs to be accessible to decision-makers in formats and timelines that meet their needs.

We are working on a variety of projects to rapidly convert data to insights. For example, it has been a privilege to contribute to the development of the National Data and Analytics Platform (NDAP), which is poised to become a single-stop for access to interoperable cross-ministerial administrative data that is easy to merge, analyse, and visualise. Innovations in NDAP, like a single underlying geographic schema and easily accessible metadata, enable its use for inter-sectoral policy analysis and operations. This year, we also created dashboards for large social sector organizations like BRAC so leaders can easily visualize the field footprint of thousands of community health workers.

In 2022, we look forward to further strengthening administrative data by diagnosing and resolving quality issues and making it easy for leaders to extract insights. 

We hope that when higher quality data sets become more widely accessible this will unlock a virtuous cycle of supply and demand in both the government and social sector.

In the coming year, we are also planning various events to bring together individuals and organizations working to address data gaps and optimize new opportunities in the sector. Working together, we believe we can collectively enable more evidence-informed decision-making in policies and programs. We look forward to sharing more details in the new year.

From all of us at IDinsight, we wish you a safe and healthy new year!