India the largest functioning or otherwise democracy in the world despite its blaring diversity and variety is a testament unto itself. But this sovereign nation of ours has in recent times been awash in setbacks, the most newsworthy or shameful of which have been the scams that the politicians and civil servants elected to steer our nation to greater glory, have been embroiled in. Scams that shook our nation; in the staggering amount of money that has been involved, amounts that well over 50 % of our population cannot even begin to imagine, the callous stripping of our nation’s wealth for personal gains, the monetary gains made by individuals with money that should have gone into our government’s coffers, money that should have eased the lives of at least a million of our poorest.
These setbacks have gotten most of us questioning the four pillars of our democracy; the Executive, the Legislative, the Judiciary and the fourth estate- the Press, the four pillars that are tasked with preventing such setbacks from happening. But such thoughts should not mislead one into thinking that the pillars of our democracy are not functioning but rather lead one to think that maybe it is time that we have a new pillar, a Fifth Estate.
Many in our nation can attribute their wealth and prosperity to the IT boom back in the 90’s that has revolutionised our country. We may not have had an industrial revolution, in many ways due to the callousness of the British Raj, but we sure are in the fore front of an information and technology revolution. This IT revolution has seen to the emergence of e-governance in India and m-governance is not far behind. In more ways than one the IT and the internet revolution have empowered us the citizens of the nation; we now have information at the tip of our fingers (thanks in no small measure to Google) and if we do not, then we can demand it (RTI Act).
The Right to Information Act was one of the initial steps taken to transition India from that of an opaque system of governance to one with a reasonable amount of transparency. But those who have actually exercised this right to information will tell you that it is no cake walk. But the more important issue here is why is it that we have to demand information regarding the governance of our country, the spending of our tax money? Shouldn’t this information be available to us, regardless of whether we demand it or not?
So, is this widespread, free for all, availability of information a distant dream? Maybe not. Because there is a new revolution that is coming about; a revolution that is beginning to make a sea change in the corporate sector and predicted to take us all by storm, one that has the ability to take transparency in governance to a new level, one that might be our very best weapon yet, in our fight against corruption. The revolution that we speak of is that of Analytics.
Analytics (for those with the creased brows), is the art or the science of analysing data in its enormity and discovering patterns in them and using these patterns to predict the future to a very high level of accuracy. Analytics is widely used in the banking sector to predict fraud, in the retail sector to understand the customer, current trends, in HR to predict team performance, attrition etc. So what significance does the Analytics revolution hold for the government? How can we tackle corruption with Analytics?
Much has been written about NREGA – the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, mostly about the rampant corruption that is derailing the scheme. The intended beneficiaries not receiving their salary for work done; salary that amounts to a meagre daily minimum wage, ghost workers being paid, these are some of the stories we hear about this scheme. With the emergence of e- governance and the UIDAI, the Indian government holds one of the largest databases of information. This information should be used to create analytically driven dashboards. Dashboards, in the case of NREGA, that would have real time information on the correlation of the following variables; the funds allocated by the government, the salaries paid to the workers (checked against UIDAI) and the regularly updated financials of the politicians and civil servants involved in implementing the scheme. Such an analytically driven dashboard will bring about a greater transparency in the implementation of such schemes. Moreover, using analytics, the data can be studied and patterns identified to prevent future fraud and enable a more efficient distribution of funds.
Another disaster that recently struck our nation was that of the Mining scam, which has cost our government millions of rupees and has struck up a political storm. Here again, an analytically driven dashboard with the information on the correlation of the following variables; data analysed from Google earth and satellites, the real time market demand of the resources, complaints of land displacements, financials of the politicians, civil servants involved . Such information when monitored closely will prevent another such fiasco. But bringing transparency to our governance goes beyond tackling corruption in NREGA and mining, analytically driven dashboards should be employed across the board.
So, why is corruption so rampant in India today? One of the main reasons can be boiled down to the fact that there is shamefully little or no information at all on the candidates contesting for elections. To this end the Fourth estate or the Government should develop an analytically driven Political Dashboard. A Political Dashboard that includes key standard performance indicators that at a glance would indicate the levels of contributions of a contesting candidate to the betterment of an individuals’ life and the community at large. The performance indicators should include contribution to Physiological needs (food, shelter, and clothing), Social security and well being needs (education, healthcare, transportation, policing and safety) and Community needs (employment, breaking down of social barriers). Information such as this will empower the common man and at the same time act as an incentive for politicians to channel their political clout for the betterment of the community that they represent. This would ensure that we have responsible citizens at the helm of our communities.
Therefore such dashboards when implemented will bring about a greater transparency in our system of governance, greater accountability of the elected leaders and civil servants to their fellow citizens and greater empowerment of the Aam Aadmi.Recommended posts:
Greg Boyce is President and Chief Executive Officer since Jan. 1, 2006. Greg was elected to the Board of Directors in March 2005 and chairs the executive committee. He joined Peabody in Septembe…