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JUL 31 2017

Startups to enable citizen participation in public governance with data

  • Economic Times, ET Bureau / Hyderabad
  • Created: Mon 31st JUL 2017

 

Chandrapur district in Maharashtra - rich in natural resources of lime and coal - boasts of one of Asia's largest thermal power plants and several cement factories. Yet, the district is among the most backward ones in India. People walk miles to find mobile phone network. Only 5% of its population is computer literate. Naxalite attacks aren't uncommon. However, things are changing.

Chandrapur district collector Ashutosh Salil, who overlooks the expenditure of Rs 500 crore of taxpayer money, uses a dashboard on his computer screen to make more informed decisions.

“When you have numbers, figures and data in front of you, you stop shooting in the dark,“ Salil said. “It is easier for you to pinpoint with data. North to south - Chandrapur is 250 kilometres. I can't know every detail of what's happening. Now, it is easier to fix responsibility. We now say fix electricity in this particular village rather than saying fix electricity in every village,“ he said.

Two years ago, the district tied up with Tata Trusts and data intelligence company SocialCops to help district and block officials create micro targeted village development plans.Data was gathered from 290 of the 1,600 villages in the district. Over 6.9 million data points including updates on village infrastructure, health centres, state of anganwadis and schools, Aadhaar and bank account penetration were collected, cleaned and structured. Using the data, Salil is now able to hold Aadhaar camps, supply LPG cylinders across the district in a more structured manner.

Chandrapur isn't a one-off case. Tata Trusts alone has so far worked in across 1,248 villages in AP, Maharashtra, Odisha and Jharkhand to introduce data governance lead model.

“We have seen that a large part of service delivery...it does not reach people at the end of the day , because the decision maker does not have full information,“ said Poornima Dore, senior manager (programs) at Tata Trusts. “There are certain gaps in the delivery of services and in that, data and technology can play a very important role in coming together.“

While the Indian government collects massive amount of data though census and other surveys, the data can often be unreliable and outdated. The AP government is using data extensively to micro-target policies. It developed a core dashboard back in 2015 that tracks performance of 31departments across the state on realtime basis. The dashboard is able to track streetlights, water levels, school and staff attendance, distribution of pension and so on.

Last year, the state increased agriculture production by 14% despite drought-like situation in the state because of the timely use of `rain guns' to sprinkle water on fields to save crops.“We have a system using internet of things (IoT) sensors and devices to know the water levels at lakes, tanks, rivers, canals, ground water and soil moisture. So we know exactly which village is facing water scarcity. We were able to save more than 1 lakh acres of crop land,“ said J Krishna Kishore, CEO at Andhra Pradesh's Economic Development Board. Andhra Pradesh was also able to improve the street lighting using IoT sensors to track the usage.“We can see live on the dashboard which streetlights are on, off or not working,“ said Kishore.

Bengaluru-based non-profit Janaagraha aims to enable citizen participation in public governance by empowering citizens with data. The NGO, through its MyCityMyBudget campaign, collects data and uses it to engage ward counselors, engine ers, resident welfare associations. It produces ward performance reports which not only has quality of life data but also budget data.

It shows how much money each ward is getting and how much more money is available at city or zone level. Janaagraha says citizens have been able to demand better services using the data.. “When citizens want something we give them the objective data and based on that they can in form themselves.

Perception is replaced by data. The budget data we collected was submitted to the mayor and standing committee chairman -they have agreed to incorporate some of the inputs to 2017-18,“ said Srikanth Viswanathan, CEO at Janaagraha.

Tags

Maharashtra Jharkhand Odisha Andhra Pradesh Micro Ink Coal Asia Liquefied Petroleum Gas Budget Power Electricity India TATA

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