In need of authentic data

Dhaka,  Thu,  21 September 2017
Published : 04 Aug 2017, 20:59:27

In need of authentic data

Lack of updated -- even absence of -- data in many cases, has for long been one of the key constraints in government's decision-making. It is often alleged that lack of updated data or data mismatch makes macro planning and budgetary exercise difficult. The finance minister at a pre-budget meeting with leading economists and professionals a couple of months back expressed frustration over what he called unreliable and conflicting data, potentially capable of misguiding policy planners. He also mentioned that the data produced by the government's Planning Division and Statistics Division as well as other key divisions differ significantly. No doubt, the finance minister is the one to suffer the brunt of incorrect and unusable data more than perhaps anyone in the government.  

Importance of quality data is most crucial and indeed integral to government policies upon which depends the success of planning and execution. Needless to say, while absence of data in many areas is a serious problem both for the policy planners in the government and individual researchers, conflicting data can cause havoc in that it is likely to misdirect decision making on the part of the government and render research findings grossly erroneous. Relevant quarters are often of the opinion that lack of coordination among different agencies of the government is primarily responsible for data anomalies. Besides, there are plenty of fields in economic, social and industrial arenas where extensive efforts are required for creating comprehensive data base. Data on arable lands, industrial lands, livestock, productivity in various primary and manufacturing sectors as well as on a diverse area of social and healthcare-related issues constitute a major requirement for practical-oriented planning and policy formulation of the government. Equally important, if not more, is the requirement of various development activities undertaken by non-government organisations (NGOs) and foreign donors.

Given the vital role that data can play, there is a growing global awareness to restructure the methods to collect, assimilate and monitor data as a key mechanism of policy planning and subsequent monitoring. At a UN conference organised recently at the UN headquarters on what has been dubbed a data revolution, Bangladesh Planning Minister, while acknowledging the importance of timely and authentic data, emphasised the critical need for open and publicly accessible data to speed up implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The concept of data revolution implies drawing on existing and new sources of data to fully integrate those into decision-making and promoting open access. At the heart of the matter is an acknowledgement that timely and usable data is critical to informed decision-making, monitoring of progress and evolution of outcomes.

It must be acknowledged that Bangladesh is far from making quality data available to the policy planners as well as to the public. However, there must not be any gap in recognising the value of useable and continuously updated data as one of the most important tools to thoroughly understand a given situation in any socio-economic arena. Concerted efforts should be on to ensure that all concerned put in their best in this regard.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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