The Tech4Dev collaboration between CivicDataLab and Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability aims at developing a comprehensive dashboard called the Fiscal Data Explorer with Himachal Pradesh(HP) as the focus state. This dashboard will be a unique addition to the already existing data platform, Open Budgets India(OBI), in bringing together data on state budget allocations for Himachal and its spending data in a single tool.
What makes state fiscal data so complex?
Citizen’s access to data on government budgets in India diminishes drastically as we go deeper from the level of the Union Government to the sub-national levels. The low usability of state budget documents is also compounded by the fact that most of the detailed information is locked away in closed formats like PDF and hence cannot be read or consumed by machines. Further, the lack of metadata hinders the process of easy search-ability for relevant fiscal data.
When it comes to data on actual spending of these allocated funds at the district level, only a handful of states actually do bring out this information in the public domain. Even for this latter subset of the states, district spending data is associated with complicated coding structures making it difficult to comprehend for the uninitiated users. Needless to say, such hurdles at the state and district level, crucially restrict public engagement with fiscal data and in turn, constrain public participation with fiscal issues.
What is Fiscal Data Explorer?
Fiscal Data Explorer is a unique tool where citizens can explore both budgets and spending data of state governments in an easy to comprehend and simple to use manner.
Such a dashboard can enable users to obtain answers to their budget-related queries in an interactive fashion. Some of the key features to assist the users in their exploration are downloadable data in machine-readable formats, easily searchable data tables, dynamic visualizations, etc.
What are we trying to address?
The proposed project will aim at solving the dual problems of lack of easy accessibility to detailed information on state budgets and spending data in specific states and the lack of usability of such data due to the manner in which it is shared in the public domain. Further, with the introduction of comprehensive metadata, the Fiscal Data Explorer will help different user groups to curate information and insights in a more transparent and organized manner. With such an intervention, we expect to facilitate greater public engagement with both budgets at the state level and spending data at the district level.
What will be the components/elements of Fiscal Data Explorer?
The following are the various components/elements which will be included in the dashboard:
- Money Flow: This will provide aggregate and detailed information about the inflow and outflow of money in a state.
- Overall Budget (Budget Highlights): This will provide a brief representation of the budget on an aggregate level and information like major schemes, announcements, etc.
- Expenditure: This will be divided into the following parts for easy dissemination of expenditure information as follows:
- Expenditure Summary: This section will give an overall gist of how the state has performed in terms of its expenditure across years and among sectors.
- Detailed Expenditure: The objective of this part will be to dig deeper and give granular insights into each department, commonly classified as different demand numbers or grant numbers.
- Expenditure Tracker: This will help the user to track how money is being spent on a daily and monthly basis across various districts and expenditure heads.
- Receipts: This will be divided into the following parts for easy dissemination of expenditure information as follows:
- Detailed Receipts: Structured to provide both aggregates as well as granular insights on different sources of receipts like tax, non-tax revenue receipts, etc.
- Receipts Tracker: This will enable the user to track how receipts are being collected on a daily and monthly basis across various districts and receipts heads.
- Schemes: This will provide detailed information related to various schemes across the years.
- Sectors: This will provide sectoral information and comprehensive representation of how individual sectors have performed across the years. It will also enable inter-sectoral comparisons in the state and its various districts.
What has been our roadmap for developing the dashboard?
The unique feature of this project has been the close association between public finance knowledge and the sound application of technological solutions to it. Needless to say, the technical, research and design roadmaps towards developing this dashboard are dependent on one another and naturally do have overlapping segments.
On the technical front, the following are the steps are being planned out:
On the research side of the project, the following roadmap is being followed:
In terms of design and design research activities we have the following roadmap:
What do we expect this tool to achieve?
We expect this tool to facilitate strengthened engagement with openly accessible public finance data at the state and district level by researchers, journalists and other stakeholder groups. A deeper understanding of the priorities of the state government and the performances of the states in raising their revenues and spending the allocated funds have the potential to build stronger advocacy routes with the concerned government authorities by the civil society organizations. In doing so, the fiscal data on this proposed dashboard can be made extensive use of and therein lies its potential.
About the Authors
P.S. The blog was originally published on Tech4Dev and can be accessed here: https://chintugudiya.org/roadmap-for-co-creating-the-fiscal-data-explorer/