Data Governance Quality Index — A Tool to Improve Fiscal Transparency in India
Aishwarya Bhuta, Mitali Gupta, Nilachala Acharya
There is little contention that the 21st century is a digital age wherein data is an enabler and indispensable tool for governance. As India ushers into the fourth quarter of a century of its Independence, technology-enabled and data-driven reforms shall assume much greater significance for efficient public finance management. This blog post discusses the role of Data Governance and Quality Index (DGQI) developed by the Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office (DMEO), NITI Aayog, in enhancing fiscal transparency in India. It analyses the effectiveness of the DGQI framework with respect to promoting public debates and discussions on transparency and accountability.
Physical and financial information regarding various development schemes and programmes can be accessed via Management Information Systems (MISs) and dashboards, such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Programme-MIS, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana — Urban MIS, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana-MIS and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana — Online Management, Monitoring and Accounting System. However, a need was felt for a standardised framework to evaluate the data preparedness of and availability of data in the public domain by various Ministries and Departments (M/Ds), both at the levels of Union and State Governments. It would also help to explore notable practices by some M/Ds which could be replicated for better policy implementation and outcomes.
While DGQI 1.0 emphasised mainly on data systems, its approach has expanded to integrate data strategy and data-driven outcomes in the second phase. It is being increasingly acknowledged that merely digitisation of data does not suffice; it needs to be updated in real time and managed efficiently for it to deepen and become an enabler in the governance processes. While there have been improvements noticed within the M/Ds and government agencies with regard to use of relevant fiscal data available to them, much needs to be done for strengthening public engagement by making these fiscal data available to the public in a timely manner.
The DGQI is a useful tool/framework for government agencies at both the Union and the State levels to undertake self-assessment, and for the NITI Aayog to conduct comparative assessments of the levels of data-preparedness of M/Ds. Its methodology is based on six themes under data systems as follows.
Figure 1. DGQI methodology — indicators and their respective weightage
In addition to the above, the DGQI also measures whether a particular M/D is Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW) compliant or not.
There has been an increasing demand by civil society organisations, activists, and researchers for open access to the entire spectrum of fiscal data collected with respect to the deployment of public funds. Openness of data availability is an enabler for dialogues and debates which foster inclusive and participatory decision making.
According to the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (2012), the guiding principles of data sharing and accessibility include Openness, Flexibility, Transparency, Legal Conformity, Protection of Intellectual Property, Formal Responsibility, Professionalism, Standards, Interoperability, Quality, Security, Efficiency, Accountability, Sustainability and Privacy. The below table presents a summary assessment of the DGQI framework on some of these parameters related to promoting and enhancing public debates in the fiscal governance discourses in India.
In a nutshell, the DGQI framework is promising in terms of its intent and approach. It can be instrumental in facilitating deepening of the digitisation processes among government platforms to disseminate data. However, in order for it to advance fiscal transparency, it needs to be made more accessible in various Indian languages. Several notable practices such as the Jan Soochna portal and Digital Dialogues of the government of Rajasthan, which covers information regarding 260 schemes across 115 departments and public authorities, and the Avalokana software of the government of Karnataka, which provides disaggregated fiscal data at the district levels and below, must be replicated by other states. Such interventions can pave the way for much needed fiscal transparency and accountability in the functioning of various M/Ds to achieve better governance outcomes.
Going forward, it is indeed expected that the DGQI would include data collection and standardisation at the district level, which is perceived as an important unit of governance to address regional imbalances in the country. The fiscal data pertaining to development schemes captured through Single Nodal Agency (Account) could serve the basis of public engagement in enhancing fiscal transparency. Similarly, district-wise disaggregated fiscal information of development schemes presented through District treasuries and treasuries at the Taluk levels (a case in point is BEAMS), should be promoted and replicated in all the districts of India.
Authors work with Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (CBGA), New Delhi. Views expressed are of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of CBGA.