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Why Only Data-driven Change Can Sustain


India aims to become a $5 trillion economy by 2024. We are proud of our research and development centers when it comes to technological developments like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, cybersecurity etc. However, how often do we contemplate about that part of India where internet hasn’t penetrated properly, leave alone the above-mentioned technologies?

As a country, we continue to face challenges like gender biases, partial education, improper sanitation, poor state of health care etc. The major functionaries are busy planning how to draw investors to the Indian land to make it prosperous. But the situation is no less than making something look externally beautiful. If India has to be made prosperous inside-out, the rural-urban divide has to be eradicated. But how can that be done, given the huge population of the country? Even if the government wants to take a step, they fail because of the enormity. Data could be a potent rescuer here, reveals Prerna Mukharya, Founder, Outline India, in conversation with CXO Today.

Journey of Outline India

The foundations of Outline India were laid in 2012 by Prerna Mukharya. Hailing from a research background and armed with exposure to the workings of a thinktank, the sanctity and quality of data by various analytic firms is something which caught her attention and made here start Outline India. She holds the firm belief that if the core of India has to be transformed, we need strong policies which can only be made on the premise of data and analytics. In Prerna’s words, “Outline India is a data collector which facilitates decision-making.”

From the hinterlands of of Odisha, Uttar Pradesh or Bihar to neighboring Nepal, the group of young researchers from Outline India has left their footprints across all regions, collecting data points to enable the policy makers draft better policies for them.  Says Prerna, “India’s 70 per cent of population still resides in rural India and there is very little data available about their quality of life, needs and expectations. Hence, with this little data, it is not possible to understand the ground reality and formulate the policies to change the status quo.”

This makes it very clear how crucial the role of correct data is. Outline India does primary surveys and collects data on the segments like health, education, water, gender, sanitation and agriculture.

Understanding Change from the Narrative of Data

The role of data is humongous and that’s what the narrative of Prerna demonstrates. As she walks us through one of her current studies which is about sexual and reproductive health in a remote area of Bihar, it highlights how the data collection plays its part. She narrated a three-year journey of the study which first involves a survey to understand the current scenario of the land.

The second stage involves the solution that has to be provided and the final stage of the study is about gauging the results of the workshops done and interventions made. In her words, “the aim of our entire study is about taking steps towards change and measuring the impact.”

In another case study of Outline India, Prerna highlights how the gender biases continue to exist and how the data is needed to understand the same in order to create a change. For instance, in one of the villages they conducted their study; the mothers were asked how equal the treatment of a girl and a boy child is. While the treatment seems equal in words, the actions do not demonstrate the same.

On the one hand, the boy child only goes to school, studies, plays and sleeps, the girl child, on the other hand, gets up early, does the household chores, goes to school, comes back and acts as a helping hand to the mother and ends the day. The treatment of both the genders is clearly not the same and it will not be until people are showed the biases by actually talking to them. Hence, the data is needed to be collected and analyzed well to make an impact.

Track Your Metrics- Why Measure the Impact

While we work towards creating an impact, it is equally important to measure the steps taken and impact created. It is this realization which pumped Prerna to develop Track Your Metrics (TYM), a tech platform that will help NGOs measure the impact they are having and enable CSR bodies to track their fund spends at zero unit cost. The platform creates a marketplace where funders can find NGOs to fund and vice versa based on micro datasets.

The platform collects data using an android app, which also allows real time field data collection in the hinterland of the country. The app or the platform has a dashboard with an easy graphical representation of the data collected, and customised reports are generated which can be shared with potential donors or grant-makers to enable accountability.

Every country or land demands change and since we are in a developing country, the need of change is even more critical and hence, demands strategic planning. We clearly are not short of funds or resources, but what we need is the right way to use both. India has a huge base of data scientists and data analytics. The decision makers are the ones who have to be more strategic while planning to battle with any social problem.

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