eGram in Gujarat
Centralized Database Management System & Utilization
Evidence‐based development planning:
One major area that the state of Gujarat can use to greatly increase the administrative effectiveness of Government is through the building of a flexible and efficient central database system that would increase the speed of decision‐making and track all activities undertaken throughout the state from the lowest level and up. Thus, the aim of this study is to assist in strengthening the village level information base and network which will create a strong foundation for building a reliable, usable network. Furthermore, building such a system will be helpful in preparing block/district level plans with objective deliverables and faster decision making for sustainable socio‐economic development. Developing a strong governing foundation with a Database Management System means that government policies can be distributed and implemented easily to a wide area at the same time. Furthermore, the public can also easily and effectively reach their needs to the government.
Framework: a database to identify development needs
A major concept that clearly outlines the way societal values operate in an evolving economy is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This concept is used in economics and business to study the motivations of people and how those motivations influence them to support certain purchasing habits or other consumer behavior. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can also be fully applied to understand the way villagers think and how they set their priorities. It makes a huge difference for a governing body when it is able to deeply understand its constituents and the way they work. For example, according to the article, “Politics of Infrastructure”, by Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, “Growing average incomes should ideally lead to a greater value being paid on the quality of life and infrastructure.” As the income increases, so does the will to buy more and more quality things.
According to Maslow’s theory, people’s behavior follows a hierarchy of pattern. Once a basic need is fulfilled, as is the case in most Gujarat villages, people will automatically begin to focus on improving a need that belongs to a higher level in hierarchy. So now that Gujarat’s villages have electricity, internet connectivity, and running water is being provided in many places, villagers will no longer have those needs that are already fulfilled.
The image above and on the right, shows an example of the level of needs as defined in healthcare service distribution. Maslow’s Hierarchy chart can be applied to any field of knowledge and the needs of a particular group of people determined through the simple levels. The model is used everywhere to understand how to provide service and which service to provide after study using the hierarchy chart. The image on the left is the basic model which is then adapted into a particular situation or analysis.
How does this concept fit into the database system? A database system collects any and all information about people, events, and places. Collecting information about villagers & villages will let the government know how many have bank accounts, schools and children in school, the work they do, and the needs they have. Other information may also include the total family earnings, expenses, cost of schooling, cost of supporting schools, implementing new infrastructure, crops being commercially grown, the amount & type of crops being produced, the amount of fertilizer being used, the extent of the postal service being used, remittances being received, etc. The list of possible data that can be collected and used for a variety of purposes is a very long one. A database of how much it takes to support these needs and what is necessary is critical to the success of any governing body whose goal it is to create high quality services.
For example, it may be more sustainable to plan water distribution to a village in Kutch area that has an irregular water supply than to plan food distribution for a village that is no longer ranked at the physiological needs level of Maslow’s hierarchy. This is shown in Jaghadia which is considered to be more advanced because it is ranked above physiological, safety, and social needs levels of the hierarchy. Jaghadia has no need for basic amenities but wants new technologies. This village is growing quickly and uses various technologies to support daily business, agriculture, and life. On the other hand, Kaprara taluka faces many issues regarding basic healthcare and amenities which would put the location at the lowest or physiological needs level. Thus, Kaprara wants basic amenities along with healthcare and has no immediate need for education facilities or technology.
To first understand the technical framework that will define a clear cut database system let’s outline the characteristics that will be used to lay the groundwork. Since, the system will include material from the village level; characteristics will be expressed as village amenities. Village amenities and basic necessities cover availability of schools for education, Healthcare facilities, clean drinking water facility, sanitation, electricity, transportation (micro‐level logistics), tourism, communication, waste management, agricultural tools, distribution of food articles, and standard of living. Defining and incorporating these basic administrative points in a database will give access to a range of information that can be used for planning and further development at the village/Taluka/district level.
Proposal: Centralized Database Management System (DBMS)
In order to achieve the above stated purpose, a Centralized Database Management System (DBMS) is proposed. A DBMS stores a large amount of data in lists of independent information. Additional data sets can be added at any time and relationships between the data sets are defined. Relationships can be altered without affecting the data. For example, a simple database has three tables: planting tools, irrigation tools, and harvesting tools. Reports or queries can be made to access these tables and link them in a logical way. A few months later, another table can be added listing crop storage. All these tables can be updated independently with no impact on the reports already created. Controlling information is very easy.
One of the more advanced features of DBMS is to assist in building an Offline Data Analysis engine to facilitate development decisions. Data analysis engines greatly reduce processing time and provide response input options. This automated system will additionally remove unnecessary red tape and achieve a better response rate. A second step that addresses another aspect is to preset queries and dynamic reports for village/taluka/district to give real time data that can be used to give faster service and effectively fulfill requests. Solutions can be derived as quickly as they are needed. To reinforce the system and keep it fluid, the support step will be to act as a bridge between District teams (DSO), DES, and Vendor to correlate the MIS requirements and Technical Requirements.
Present Status of data management:
Current scenario is presented as such: Gujarat is known as the most connected state in India. Internet connectivity is available through GSWAN and E‐Gram up to the village level. Every village has electricity and internet access. Infrastructure, defined as computers, tables, and office is made available up to village level at the location of the Gram Panchayat, making it accessible to all. Presently, these features assist the state government in assessing the current economic situation in the State. In addition, matching sample bases are gathered in the yearly survey rounds of NSSO.
Following is an outline of the main functions of DES:
- To collect, compile and process the statistical data and disseminate in the form of important statistical publications pertaining to the economy of the State.
- To conduct socio‐economic studies, surveys and census related to various socio‐economic aspects vital to the development in the State.
- To compile and prepare estimates of State Domestic Product and related aggregates
- To assist the State Government in the formulation of economic policies by furnishing technical note on current economic situation in the State.
- To participate on matching sample basis, in the yearly survey rounds of National Sample Survey Organization.
- To co‐ordinate the statistical activities of various State Government departments with a view to suggest improvements in the existing methods of data collection.
- To provide statistical information to various Government Departments, offices, committees, working groups, commissions’ set‐up by the government and the research institutions.
- To organize regular training programmers for various statistical personnel working at different levels.
- To undertake or assist in undertaking special and ad‐hoc studies or surveys as desired by the State Government and the Government of India.
To provide technical guidance to District Statistical Officers is coordinating statistical activities at district level with reference to statistical activities, various census and surveys.
DES primarily handles data assimilation and as such, is not a data collection or disbursing agent. There is a lack of an intelligent data management system that will analyze incoming data and output it in a way that allows for many factors to be considered when making decisions about governance or new systems. One challenge faced currently by the state government is data consistency and data availability.
Data is not centralized from which a governing body’s constituents can access real time data from anywhere securely and use that data to make fast decisions. There is no centralized database management system.
Instead, there are different databases, for each department and Heads of Departments, Boards, and Corporations. One department cannot access another department’s information quickly and there is inconsistency between databases. The framework or filing systems used are different rather than being uniform. Due to this inconsistency, there is no system to connect databases with each other due to missing primary and unique keys.
Additionally, there exists a problem of data verification from remote locations due to the unavailability of data entry software. Gathering data is usually done through paperwork which is then filed, creating physical libraries. Maintaining physical files can be difficult and crucial information can be misplaced. In turn, this creates a very time consuming process for data verification and validation, which then must be done manually. Accessing data from these files can be a painstaking and time‐consuming task. Thus, gaps are created in the availability and accessibility of information required for micro level planning.
With any system, simple or complex, monitoring the process, results, and effects is critical. There is a requirement for improved synchronized monitoring and evaluation through regular progress reports. It is difficult to access and analyze all the data to observe the true outcomes of the implementation of any service or program. There is no data warehouse concept, where properly labeled data is stored in relevant chunks digitally and can be accessed easily from any location or by any department.
Strategy to establish an effective Database Management System:
In order to obtain effective solutions, a simple and flexible strategy is proposed for building a valuable centralized database management system. To begin the endeavor to achieve a strong database management system, first parameters or field of data collection at the village level will be set. The basic parameters will be defined by what amenities are needed and which are available already. Setting these parameters will help decide if the available amenities need to be enhanced and also the amount of needed amenities with careful budgeting being incorporated. Then, work will commence on detailed data analysis of the village profile. Current problems in village profiling will be identified and possible updates will be suggested.
With the basic analysis completed, the database model will be finalized. The purpose of this model is to begin compiling real time data which will create a venue that will allow governing bodies to immediately access all the information so that careful planning for any current service or project implementation can be done from the initial stage. As the model is being finalized, information on parameters or fields of data from district teams will be collected. This information will then be inputted into the database model (the initial stage of the database system) and stored. This will provide a great amount of flexibility in informing of new policies.
For example, a new law for crop fertilization can be spread to all the villages using the database management system. Furthermore, the farmer can also order his subsidized farming supplies for the next month through the database system. Hence, the database management system can be used to distribute information from the bottom level up as well as from the top level down. This way, the amount of fertilizer that is distributed through subsidies can also be tracked along with other farming supplies. This will allow the government to know the consumption level of supplies and will also inform village panchayats of new policies that affect the village.
The DBMS will greatly enhance convenience and distribute information more efficiently. To create the support system, pre‐set queries will be written which are necessary for progress reports and dynamic queries for real time reports. This will cover database monitoring and evaluation. The progress of policy decisions or projects can easily be monitored through each stage. For more detailed monitoring, technical requirements at DES will be checked to run the system.
During this stage, the team will closely work with the DES and the Vendor to correlate MIS (Management Information System) requirements. Moreover, checks will be conducted to ensure that the project delivers the desired output. The database will be updated and information such as current village amenities will be available. After the initial testing phase, a pilot project will be initiated for at least 1 Taluka. Dynamic data will be accessible. This will allow the governing body to clearly observe the stage of development that the village is in, and how many villagers received the benefits of the project. The pilot project determines the desired result and what can be done for an optimum result.
The majority of the data has been compiled and the database of all villages will be synchronized. The result is a faster work rate. For example, a synchronized database will provide more speed when new education curricula are processed and need to be distributed to a wide area at once. A centralized database system is now achieved that encompasses the entire village and taluka levels. Additionally, the process of data collection, recording, and meaningful output will be structured resulting into the development of timely policy interventions. This will create a uniform method of quick response and systematic involvement. At this level, it will be analyzed whether the DBMS works in collaboration with the villages as a self‐sustaining organization/system.
Objectives and Outcome:
The results of creating a Database Management System will be an offline data analysis engine, which will be used to analyze data validation and verification. The future of a DBMS contains the ability to transform and store secure documents as pdf format files which can be shared securely anywhere. Thus, physical safes for storing critical documents are no longer needed. Government generated documents can be stored securely and shared quickly without any extra processing time. Also generated will be Dynamic Multilanguage Reports that will be used to evaluate expenditures, share scheme success, highlight problems and track changes in any sector at the Villages level. Along with other reports, access information about the availability of village amenities in real time. For research or statistical reports, conduct surveys quickly and efficiently with the added ability of rapid analysis. These surveys can also be used for census information. Moreover, the government can share any relevant information with the masses and vice versa.
In short, the benefits of using a database management system in rural development include reduced operating expenses, quick and accurate decisions based on historical data, streamlined and structured workflow capabilities, multi user and change capabilities, report capabilities as well as predictive and forecasting capabilities. One can run rural development in the same way as business management is done. Simple workflow enhancement such as this can bring government policy implementation to a level of success heretofore unseen.
Looking Ahead (Institutionalization of System):
The Database Management System provides a secured web based solution that includes all applications (online/offline) of the DES for data entry, validation, and data verification. Data will be collected accurately and timely, using GSWAN and E‐Gram connectivity from Panchayat levels. A centralized database management system (DBMS) will contain the verified, collected data in an accurate, efficient, and consistent manner, which will be useful in reporting, dynamic querying, and statistical analysis at the village, taluka, and district levels. Furthermore, this system offers the advantage of quick and reliable access to historical data (Data warehouse) for learning past patterns and forecasting developments, which will aid in discovering policy successes and understanding state development of different sectors. E‐Gram can successfully issue all the certificates with the assistance of centralized statistics and the UID Database Management System.
In conclusion, the Centralized Database Management System will create a strong yet flexible foundation for intelligent governance. The DBMS can be used for a variety of purposes. After all, as the saying goes, “Knowledge is Power”.
Rajadhyaksha, Niranjan. “Politics of Infrastructure”. Mint. Myview section, Café economics. Vol.4 No.232. 29, September 2010.
Images of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Derived from Google Images.
Written by, CM Fellow, CMO, Government of Gujarat