“When you have numbers, figures, and data in front of you, you stop shooting in the dark.”
-Ashutosh Salil, IAS, District Collector of Chandrapur
In the fall of 2016, Sudhir Mungantiwar, the Honorable Minister of Forest, Finance, and Planning for the Government of Maharashtra reached out to the Tata Trusts. His request was simple — find a way to plan better in his constituency.
Known as “Bhau” (Big Brother) in the region, Mungantiwar has continuously rooted for the development of the Vidharbha region, and Chandrapur in particular, over the last 25 years. During his time, several planning exercises have taken place. However, none has resulted in widespread action on the ground. When Mungatiwar learned that the Tata Trusts was offering to help Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies with planning, he reached out to the Trusts and sought support for Chandrapur.
The Tata Trusts took up the challenge and pledged to create comprehensive village development plans for 290 villages across 3 blocks of Chandrapur (Pombhurna, Mul, and Jiwati). Their agenda was simple yet intimidating — create a targeted data-driven plan for every village in just 3 months. This holistic microplanning would be used to drive better budget allocations, program implementation, department planning, and more.
The Importance of Microplanning in Chandrapur
Chandrapur is the home of over 2 million people, India’s largest thermal power plant, multiple cement factories, rich forests, and Maharashtra’s oldest and largest national park — the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. However, despite these resources, Chandrapur is also one of the 250 most backward districts in India.
To fix this, Chandrapur needs development initiatives. However, there is no simple path to development because of the sheer diversity of Chandrapur’s blocks. This project only covered 3 of Chandrapur’s blocks — Mul, Pombhurna, and Jiwati — yet even these 3 blocks showed diversity across many key indicators. For example, Jiwati has 4% LPG use and 73% kutcha houses, while Pombhurna has 33% LPG use and 41% kutcha houses. Mul and Pombhurna’s households are 10-15% nomadic tribes with over 75% access to electricity, while Jiwati’s households are 32% nomadic tribes with only 31% access to electricity. 55% of Mul’s households don’t have access to processed water from the tap, compared to 75% in Pomburna and 93% in Jiwati.
With this variation, a one-size-fits-all development solution just wouldn’t work for Chandrapur. A better solution was microplanning, which uses extremely granular data to identify the specific requirements of each village in Chandrapur.
The Role of the SocialCops Platform
The challenge with microplanning is that collecting granular information is cumbersome, time consuming, and often ineffective. Usually, by the time the collected data is finally analyzed, that data is already obsolete. Microplanning demands speed and agility, even while collecting data on 290 villages.
To make microplanning possible, the Tata Trusts partnered with SocialCops. We deployed our data intelligence platform to collect and verify data for every household across 290 villages, analyze 80 development indicators, and create a village profile and unique 40-point development plan for every village.
How was this carried out? There were five main steps:
- First, SocialCops helped design the correct data collection forms through iterative piloting in the field.
- Second, we trained 40 coordinators to manage the exercise and provided them with training materials so they could train 300 people — 100 per block.
- Third, Collect (our Android data collection tool) was deployed to capture data using 6 forms for households, village facilities, and more. At the same time, Transform (our data transformation engine) used algorithms to verify and flag inaccurate responses in real time. These data points were checked and re-collected on Collect throughout data collection.
- Fourth, we structured and analyzed this data to create village development plans, listing everything that needs to happen to transform each village into a “model village”.
- Lastly, a dashboard was built with all the data and development plans so government officials could access the information they needed from anywhere.
The Results of this Deployment
The clearest result — the village development plans created through this deployment are already being implemented to drive rapid, effective development in Chandrapur. The plans have been sent to the Gram Panchayat heads of all 290 villages to incorporate into their next annual development plans. In addition, the Guardian Minister of Maharashtra himself has adopted 18 villages, and he will use the development plans to convert these villages to model villages. The Block Development Officer of Mul added 60% of the plans’ suggestions to Mul’s 2016-17 development plan.
We also found that the data behind these village development plans — displayed visually on a dashboard — is having a significant impact. Government officers across all departments are using this data to better target their programs and policies.
- A sub-divisional officer in Mul is using our dashboard to find out where she should conduct her next camps to promote ration and Aadhar cards. Instead of running camps in every village, she is using the dashboard to find and focus on the areas with the lowest ration and Aadhar card use.
- The District Collector of Chandrapur is using our dashboards to verify claims from his department officials in real time and to cross-check villagers’ development priorities against priorities from village development plans during his field visits.
- To preserve forested areas and prevent wood burning, the Forest Department is using the dashboard to find households near forested areas that don’t have an LPG connection. It can then focus on getting LPG connections for these households.
- The Electricity Department wants to reach 100% household electrification, so it is using the dashboard to find which households currently aren’t receiving electricity.
In addition, there was one more result, an unexpected side follow-up to our deployment. Some of the volunteers who were part of this exercise have since taken up leadership roles to help transform their villages. We can’t claim that our project caused this, but it’s certainly amazing to see people get involved using data to drive development in their communities!