Data-for-Policy: A community for learning and action
Data-for-Policy: The need of the hour
We increasingly need to make decisions in an environment of radical uncertainty. Little wonder policymakers, political leaders, civil society organizations and citizens are increasingly turning to and realizing the value of data to support that decision making. During the Covid-19 pandemic governments globally leveraged various kinds of data to shape responsive and often real-time interventions. Data is recognized as a foundational tool for evidence-based governance and a pathway toward effective policymaking. Covid-19 also demonstrated the advantages of learning, sharing, co-designing and experimenting data-driven policies within policymakers’ network across the globe. The spirit of collective learning and reflection helped nations deal with the unprecedented system shocks and policy challenges that the pandemic exposed to the world. While the other regions of the world already embraced the practice of community-building, learning and experimenting on data-driven policies, the Asia-Pacific region emerged as the latest but fastest learning region wherein policymakers began networking, learning, designing and delivering rapid policy experimentation.
In the Asia Pacific region, there are already many examples of capacity building initiatives to shape data ecosystems for policymaking viz. In India, the Telangana state government is running a pilot to collect, digitize, analyse and share electric health records from government hospitals across districts. This pilot falls in line with India’s Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission which envisions allocating health IDs or linking records with existing identification (Aadhar card) to all citizens and digitizing health records.
In 2019, Indonesia’s government put in place the Satu Data Law which aims to improve data quality, introduce standards, and support easier sharing of data for decision-making across ministries. Current interventions under this law include linking databases to develop more iterative budgeting and funding and leveraging data for more equitable distribution of welfare.
These examples are among a growing set of policy experiments, which are becoming mainstreamed, that seek to leverage data to inform decisions and may be the key to developing important solutions to address the remaining global challenges that lie ahead.
However, many barriers stand in the way of data being effectively leveraged to meet these goals — ranging from limited technical infrastructure, personnel equipped with data skills and a broader culture of data rights and literacy. Now is the moment to understand the challenges of using data for policy making and explore solutions and innovative approaches to considering its responsible stewardship. We decided to convert this into an opportunity and teamed up with the right set of stakeholders to do something exciting in the Asia-Pacific region.
Sharing our Data for Policy Platform: The first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region
Learning and leveraging from the spirit of community building, learning and policy experimentation from across the globe, we, at the UNDP Asia Pacific’s Regional Innovation Centre (RIC) have partnered with The Rockefeller Foundation and content partner Aapti Institute to build a ‘Data-Driven Policymaking’ community and platform with a vision to foster and accelerate the development of a thriving data ecosystem in select countries in Asia and the Pacific. This community of leading policymakers are ambitious about better policy making using data and the platform brings together the public and private sector, civil society, academia, and other development actors to demonstrate the power of data innovation.
The platform is first of its kind in the region, anchoring a community of policymakers keen to learn, share and prototype with the spirit of ‘learning by doing’ and cross-fertilizing policy ideas that focus on the principles of data-driven decision making for better public service delivery. The platform hosts learning journeys and various offers for policymakers including webinars, learning sessions, policy advocacy interventions (blogs, OpEds, policy papers, playbooks on data capabilities for civil servants), live Data-for-Policy labs and policy experiments driven by policymakers.
The platform aims to address the following questions:
- What are the best practices that have emerged to collect and govern diverse high-quality data for decision-making?
- What strategies exist to strengthen trust across stakeholders to incentivize secure data exchange and responsible governance?
- What existing policy experiments are useful to take note of and draw learnings from?
- How can data collection and governance processes mobilize citizens as active participants in the policymaking journey?
Success so far: Been there done that!
Over the last 18 months we have been developing the platform, designing learning journeys, policy experiments and building a community of change. The Regional Innovation Centre and partners have provided expert advisory and support services support has been provided to select UNDP Country Offices and their respective government partners to frame, find entry points, design future programming and enhance their learning journeys towards building their data and digital capabilities and embedding use of data for effective decision making and better public services.
We have supported facilitating learning and sharing spaces for public servants and practitioners around themes like Anticipatory Governance for future fit food systems, Intersection of Digital Transformation and Data-Driven Policies (by expert, ex-Digital Minister of New Zealand- Clare Curran) for Bridging the Digital Divide, Seamless Public Service Delivery, Visioning Maldives, Future of Digital Transformation in Asia and the Pacific, Whole of Government: in times of shocks and after, Women in Government Innovation (India and Malaysia Government’s learnings on using data for health policies).
We also developed our own exemplar policy experiments to show what using data for policy making could look like including live-policy lab- Pintig Lab (UNDP Philippines partnered with The Philippines Government to use real-time data from various sources for anticipatory policymaking) and ‘Data in Climate Resilient Agriculture’ (DiCRA)- (UNDP India partnered with the Government of Telangana)- a platform that provides data and evidence on Climate Resilient Agriculture to support strategic decision-making & policy making. DiCRA also happens to be the first climate intervention (of UNDP as well as Government of Telangana) to be registered as Digital Public Good. We also have a food systems policy experiment is underway in the Boracay Islands, in the Philippines.
With the Data-for-Policy journey, that found its roots with nearly hundred policymakers at the NextGenGov Summit in June 2020, launched at the Istanbul Innovation Days- Asia Pacific Chapter in 2021 and finally
showcasing its achievements and creating a community of policymakers now in 2022 (showcase event on Oct 17, stay tuned for updates), we learnt lots of lessons- importance of blending qualitative data with quantitative, investing in the way how data reflects into real-life decision-making and most importantly embracing the spirit of community building and collective learning. Some of our rich learnings and experiments shall be live on our website (to be live soon) but ultimately this is a community. If you are a policymaker or an organization working in the data-for-policy space and wish to engage with us on the platform and help you with your learning journey on data-driven policymaking, reach out to us at email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us live on Oct 17 for the showcase-cum-launch event of the Data-for-Policy Platform together with our partner- The Rockefeller Foundation, our knowledge partner- Aapti Institute and most importantly — our champion policymakers! Register here
This blog was co-authored by Alexandru Oprunenco, Aafreen Siddiqui and Astha Kapoor. The Data-for-Policy contributing team includes UNDP Country Office Teams- India and The Philippines, Aapti Institute Team members- Suha Mohamed and Soujanya Sridharan. With thanks to Kate Sutton for her inputs and feedback, we would also like to acknowledge the wonderful support for this work received from Shumin Liu at earlier stages.