Panel Discussion on Imagining a Statistical Data Architecture for a 21st Century India

Past Event

NCAER hosted the inaugural seminar of its newly established NCAER National Data Innovation Centre (NDIC) with a panel discussion on Imagining a Statistical Data Architecture for a 21st Century India on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at New Delhi. The seminar was attended by a number of distinguished invited scholars and policymakers.

In his opening address, Dr Shekhar Shah, Director General NCAER, gave an overview of NCAER’s newly established Data Innovation Centre. This was followed by keynote remarks by Professor T.N. Srinivasan, Samuel C. Park, Jr. Emeritus Professor of Economics, Yale University, and Distinguished Fellow, NCAER. In his talk, Professor Srinivasan highlighted the various elements of the data structure in India, and the surveys being conducted by the Census and the National Sample Survey Organisation. He also outlined sample frame issues and challenges in data collection in the country such as identification of appropriate households for surveys, sampling techniques to be used, self-selection and household versus enterprise surveys, and time use surveys. The subsequent panel discussion at the event focused on ways of meeting these challenges and the way forward for the NDIC in its efforts to create a statistical data infrastructure for 21st-century India. The panel was chaired by Dr Pronab Sen, former Chairman, National Statistical Commission and former Chief Statistician of India. The other panellists at the discussion included Dr Ashwini Deshpande, Professor, Delhi School of Economics; Dr Madhav Chavan, Co- Founder, Pratham; Dr Junaid Ahmed, India Country Director, World Bank; Mr G. C. Manna, Former Director-General, CSO and NSSO; Dr Mudit Kapoor, Associate Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi; and Dr Sonalde Desai, Senior Fellow, NCAER, and Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland, who will serve as the Founding Director of NDIC.

India was one of the first nations to develop an elaborate statistical infrastructure that has served its planning and policymaking process well since Independence. However, the challenges of the 21st century differ dramatically from the ones that guided the design of its early statistical systems. Advances just in the past decade in statistical techniques, digital technology, geospatial imagery, and communications offer immense opportunities to build on India’s statistical data architecture and for collecting, disseminating and analysing data for scientific research and sound policymaking. In response to these emerging opportunities and challenges, NCAER has established NDIC in collaboration with the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan.

NCAER’s National Data Innovation Centre is being visualised as a national centre of innovation and excellence in data collection that will build research capacity to strengthen the data ecosystem in India. It will address problems with existing data streams and important data currently not collected; foster, incubate, mainstream, and increase uptake of data innovations; and improve the triangulation and compatibility of distinct but related datasets. It will also: (1) promote innovative data and quality assurance modules using new data collection methods and technologies, initially in the areas of gender empowerment, financial inclusion, health and agriculture; (2) build connections with diverse stakeholders, including data researchers, and data professionals located within government national data agencies; and (3) enhance skills through formal and informal training and through the building of a broader collaborative network.

The task of achieving these objectives of the Centre will be carried out through a series of activities and efforts will be made to enhance the sustainability of the enterprise over a long term. The NCAER website will be updating information on the progress and developments at the new Centre.