The nation is on a massive-path digitalization. It is, currently, being realized through the Digital India mission. Today, more than 980 million Indians have AADHAR cards, 700 million own mobile phones, and more than 300 million have access to broadband internet connection. This transforms into a massive data set that has the potential to actively transform the public services delivery system. No doubt, the progressive nations are utilizing big data to manage their cities, towns, and villages efficiently. But this capability in India’s context remains underutilized.
Progressive nations are harnessing the power of Big data and analytics to design welfare programs to empower true social and economic growth of their masses. This ranges from the utilization of data and generation of insights in sectors ranging from power distribution to public health systems. World Health Organization has identified Big Data as the next driving force that will help nations, with massive populations, streamlining their incredibly complex health care delivery systems. Big data today is helping many Scandinavian and European countries manage their city traffic and hence tackle urban air pollution. Also, as the world is moving toward realizing the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Sustainable Habitat for all by 2030, Big data has the potential to turn a cross-section of space into living data, offering a broader and finer picture of urban life than has ever been available before.
The realization of the power of data is evident in India as well. A platform like Open Government Data (Data.gov) opens a plethora of opportunities for data scientists to analyze the vast amount of public data. From public delivery systems to grievance redressal, from city traffic management to pollution control, and from area-based crop micromanagement to large scale consumer logistics, one can only imagine the wonders analytics amalgamated with big data can do to the delivery of public services. That said, the traditional Indian Statistical Services, along with other verticals of the bureaucracy, is yet to evolve into the “Big Data” arm of the Government of India.
India is on the verge of a demographic dividend. By 2021, we will have the highest working population of the world. To realize the true potential of this demographic dividend, India needs a conducive environment that delivers all round social security coupled with economic growth. Considering the socio-economic environment of our country, public services have to act as an enabling force to drive India’s growth in the near future. That said, the JAM trinity – Jan Dhan Account, Aadhar, and Mobile – is currently the core of government’s focus on delivery of public services. But in my opinion, there is an urgent need to make “Big Data” the guide behind India’s public services delivery system.
Here are the top 3 to-dos for the Indian government to transform its public delivery system:
- Build an Indian Analytical Service: It will help India build an army of data scientists helping the government localize the national level policies based on local requirements. This is important considering ours is the most diverse landscape when it comes to geography, culture, language, and economy. There are sufficient pieces of evidence that one-size-fits-all policy has benefitted only a few states. This new central service will serve as an insights engine for the nation, generating region specific requirements and hence guiding the public delivery system cater to regional requirements.
- Bring Consistency to Data Management Across the Government: Consistent and integral data will enable better insight generation hence better best practice generation capabilities. Currently, there is no coherence in data management practices across various ministries and government departments. This leads to multiple data sets which are difficult to collate and hence fail to yield successful insights. So the government must come with a nation-wide data management policy for public offices.
- Bring Data Security to the Core of the Public Delivery System: According to a report by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, by 2022 most of the public service delivery with made online. This makes cyber security even more essential for securing public data. Even though the CERT-In is in place, still there are approximately 18 security attacks in India per hour. Therefore, the government must decentralize the data security with a strong nationwide policy backing.
India is committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. They range from catering to the environment to eradication of hunger and from eliminating diseases to building sustainable cities. To achieve these goals India must utilize and harness vast swathes of data available at its disposal. Our aim should be to design tailor-made solutions for varying regional requirements of our special nation and this won’t be possible if we don’t overhaul our traditional public delivery system.1