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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is working to turn around the way it handles and maintains important data related to its schemes and citizens — it is conducting an extensive review on the current state of data preparedness of all ministries.

Top government sources told ThePrint that the Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office of the NITI Aayog and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) have started the exercise to assess the preparedness of data systems.

Based on the results of the exercise, which would include a detailed online survey, a Data Governance Quality Index scorecard will be prepared and the ministries will be ranked.

The move comes following a missive from Bhaskar Khulbe, retired IAS officer and adviser to PM Modi. A recent communication from the NITI Aayog to the ministries stated they should complete the survey by 25 May, after which the information shared by them will be shared with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).


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What will the exercise entail?

All ministries in the Modi government will have to conduct self-diagnosis on the use of information technology for monitoring various data. For this, they have to take an online survey.

The survey will seek to gather extensive details on the process of generation and collation of data on the government’s programmes or schemes. This includes focus on at what level the data is generated (national, state, district, panchayat, village, individual), and if it is digitised at the same level.

It will also seek to know from the ministries if the data is generated in real-time, or monthly, fortnightly, weekly, daily or quarterly.

The ministries will have to explicitly state if they use mobile surveys, geo-coded photos, geo-fenced information or location tracking devices to generate data.

Additionally, the survey will seek to know if ministries check data quality parameters like: proper profiling; control of incoming data; data pipeline design to avoid duplicate data; accurate gathering of data requirements; enforcement of data integrity; use of metadata; and availability of capable data quality control teams.

It will also look to know if the ministries use mobile phones for monitoring, outreach, feedback, collection of data remotely, phone-based survey, geo-tagged photo uploads, geo-fenced data generation, location and GPS data, and multimedia data.

Data analyses by ministries, and the methods used for that — ranging from exploratory data analysis, modeling and algorithms, correlation, causation, progression analysis, predictive or data mining — will also be considered.

Information on if the schemes have dashboards and the purposes for which they are used, such as visual representation of performance measures, will also be sought, among other measures. It will also assess if the ministries use IT for communication — website information, website dashboard, mobile app, social media.

The linkage of the ministries’ Management Information System with Public Financial Management System, Aadhaar, mobile numbers and bank accounts will also be seen.

Additionally, the assessment will check if the ministries use other data resources such as remote sensing data, night light data, social media, private sector generated data, and applies machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain and big data analytics.


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‘Will curb data discrepancies’

Senior officials in the Modi government said the exercise will be an important step in the government’s management of crucial data using information technology — especially of data pertaining to schemes that are centrally sponsored.

“This would go a long way in monitoring the outputs and the outcomes of the schemes and ensuring that the data is organised. Specific and real-time data is the need of the hour for effective monitoring of their implementation as the central government periodically releases funds for them,” a top civil servant told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

A second senior government official said the exercise will be important as several flagship schemes of the government are managed by more than one ministry.

“There have been multiple instances where discrepancies have been observed when the data collated by one ministry does not match the data collated by another, on the same scheme,” said the official, who didn’t wish to be named.

“Real-time and detailed data collation and their maintenance will help solve such discrepancies, ensure authenticity of the data and would be of crucial value to the government in making policy decisions,” the official said.

“Presently, there is data available in a manner that does not lead to a complete picture when collated,” the official said. “Moreover, there is no cross department sharing of data, even if it is the same scheme, leading to gaps and confusion. There is no integration of data, whereas data flow should be seamless inter or intra department.”

ThePrint had first reported that the government has begun an extensive exercise to record all Covid-19 response data, and hired a private firm for the job.


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