Public accessibility to visualisation tools, developed by Harvard University, will ultimately increase pressure on implementers to improve outcomes
Pratap Vikram Singh | January 28, 2014
A small team from the Harvard University is helping the ministry of rural development and panchayati raj to analyze the terabytes of data related to Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee Act (MNREGA) and create dashboard which would present the information in a simple and visual format for better monitoring and implementation.
Though rural ministry is appreciated for putting information related to the employment scheme, up to the district and panchayat level, in the public domain, the data is mostly present in several excel sheets. Working for a year now, the ministry and the Massachusetts-based university will analyse and make the data more presentable.
R Subrahmanyam, joint secretary (MNREGA), rural development ministry, told Governance Now, that the ministry is likely to launch the dashboards in March. The analytics tool, being developed by the Harvard team, will make it easier to ascertain the performance of the scheme on several dimensions. “For example, (with the use of data analytics and visualisation), I can know in how many blocks demand is getting or not getting captured. In how many cases demand is not being met by work allocation. We can know where payments are getting delayed,” says Subrahmanyam.
People could know instantly the level of participation of women, the SCs and STs in the scheme and also the expenditure incurred on material and wages, he says.
According to Charity Troyer Moore, senior research and policy manager at evidence for policy design at Harvard University, “In consultation with MoRD officials, we are developing data visualization dashboards based around clusters of program outcomes - for example, duration and prevalence of payment delays - that allow officials to quickly analyze a given issue on multiple dimensions in order to understand and diagnose the nature of existing problems.”
“The judicious use of visualized data can aid time-pressed functionaries in sifting through large amounts of information to pinpoint bottlenecks and problem areas in implementation.” Moore has shifted to Delhi for a few months for closer coordination with the ministry.
The public provision of visualisation tools will ultimately increase pressure on implementers to improve outcomes, she adds.
The analysis and simplification will also help the ministry to recheck the authenticity of data collected and fed into the system. “The evaluation will also track the quality of administrative data through random cross-checks of data,” says Moore.
The ministry runs an application called ‘NREGA-SOFT’ which has been deployed at all but 452 of the 7,000 blocks. According to Subrahmanyam, the software helps the ministry in capturing the demand, allocating the work, calculating unemployment allowance, tracking delay in payments and awarding compensation automatically.
Uploaded from the block level across the country, the data related to all aspects of the rural scheme—works undertaken at the panchayat level, person-days employment provided and wage payment—runs in 20 terabytes. To access the trove of information, one has to navigate through several clicks on employment scheme’s portal: nrega.nic.in.
As of now the portal has district wise information on beneficiary detail, demand and allocation of works, physical progress, financial progress, social audit, work progress, muster roll and wage list, among others. The MIS also has numbers and graphs on person days generated versus labour budget, average person days per household, percentage of women, SC and ST participation, percentage of expenditure against available fund (district wise list).
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