[Answered] Assess the potential impact of a vacuum in official data on government policymaking. How might this affect the acknowledgment and addressal of ground realities that require intervention?

Introduction: Why data is crucial in policymaking?

Body: What is the impact of a vacuum in data on policymaking?

Conclusion: Way forward

Data plays a very significant role in government policymaking in India as it helps policymakers understand various aspects of the economy, society, and governance, enabling them to make informed decisions. A vacuum in official data has negative implications for government policymaking.

What is the impact of a vacuum in official data on policymaking?

  • Lack of informed decision making: In the absence of official data, policymakers make decisions based on inaccurate or incomplete data resulting in policies that do not align with the goals intended to be achieved.
  • Lack of transparency & accountability: In the absence of reliable official data, it becomes difficult for citizens and civil society to hold government officials accountable for their performance. Without data, there is less transparency regarding government efforts and actions.
  • Risk of policy failure: Policies and programs based on assumptions rather than on data are more prone to failure. The power of such data was seen early in the evidence-based response and decision-making in countries like South Korea during COVID-19.
  • Inability to meet international targets: Without data, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve international commitments. India has also set targets to achieve in fields related to environmental pollution, SDG, and human development.
  • Misallocation of resources: In the absence of data there may be misallocation of resources where funds may be diverted from areas, which may be crucial in achieving the desired goals for the government.

How might this official data collection be improved to affect policymaking?

  • Timely update of methodologies: There is an urgent need to update the methodologies used in the surveys. For e.g., economists have suggested that major surveys conducted post-2011 and using the Census 2011 for the sampling frame have overestimated the proportion of the rural population significantly. These surveys use outdated sampling frames and hence, are not representative.
  • Regular periodic surveys: Economists and statisticians have suggested that it is imperative that data related to poverty, growth, employment, and unemployment should be conducted at regular intervals in a predetermined timely manner and should be of the highest quality to narrow the gap between ground realities and survey estimates.
  • Technical guidance from statisticians: Statisticians and economists can examine the administrative statistics that are relevant to surveys and statistics & provide input for researching data gaps and any additional data requirements. They can also offer technical advice to the federal and state entities responsible for conducting the surveys.

Conclusion:

There should be concerted efforts from the government to establish the National Statistical Commission (NSC), as the nodal, autonomous, and statutory body for all core statistical activities.

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