Data literacy for better planning

Its absence has caused unrealistic targets to be set for the annual performance agreement

NSB: Lack of evidence-based data, its storage and ad hoc usage for planning developmental activities has muddled planning in setting targets for the annual performance agreement.

This issue was raised in most of the mid-year reviews of performance agreements of the five dzongkhags and their interaction with the National Statistical Bureau (NSB), yesterday in Paro.

NSB director general, Kuenga Tshering, also agreed that most planning earlier was dependent on intuition, which could have resulted in wrong decisions.

It was also pointed out that ad hoc data compilation and lack of coordination among different sectors have led to duplication of work.

The director also said, because of poor data storage facilities, some agencies did not have data for the past few years, which were necessary for future projections.

Paro dzongda, Chencho Tshering, said the dzongkhag’s data on paddy production was based on 2007 figures. “Many wetlands are now turned into dry land and the targets must be reviewed,” he said.

Haa dzongda, Sonam Wangdi, also pointed out that targets for some sectors in the dzongkhag were set by the parent agencies without being aware of the ground realities. “Some targets are increased without any basis,” he said.

Dzongdas also said that a proper benchmark must be set for individual objectives.  For instance, how many metric tonnes of rice a dzongkhag should produce to achieve self-sufficiency.

Kuenga Tshering said data is a powerful tool for planning and decision-making. “We need to bring up data literacy to make our decision based on facts and figures.”

However, he said that the number of surveys NSB conducted could not be the representation of the gewog level data.  This was because, he said, surveys comprised a sample size of 10,000 households with representation at the dzongkhag level.

The cost of this alone comes to about USD 3,000, which triples if the data representation from the gewogs needs to be included in the survey.

A gewog level database is currently being piloted in Bumthang and Mongar. “The total of all gewogs’ data would add to dzongkhag level data, and then the dzongkhag’s data is added to the national data,” Kuenga Tshering said.

But a standard definition, format and common survey questionnaire is mandatory for uniformity and reliability.  In that sense, the director general said dzongkhags could compare and share data with each other, which was currently not occurring.

For instance, if the definition of a farmer is standardised, actual figures could be fetched. “If a person own 0.5 decimal of land and a few chickens, does that qualify him as a farmer?” he said, citing an example.

NSB has identified the gewog centre as the data hub at the gewog level, and for this to take shape NSB officials sought the help of dzongdas to raise awareness on data literacy among local leaders.

The director also talked about doing away with surveys to reduce cost implication, if local leaders were actively involved.

Although the prime minister has asked NSB to compile important and frequently used data for all dzongkhags by June this year, NSB hopes to complete at least 10 dzongkhags.

By Tshering Dorji, Paro

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