Technology transforms Niti Aayog’s Aspirational Districts program
Rama Kamaraju, Sr Consultant, Office of CEO, Niti Aayog shares the early success of this ambitious program and how technology enables these most backward districts to gear up and become the best national districts in the next five years
Steering the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ program to effectively transform 115 backward districts across the nation, Niti Aayog says technology has been the backbone of this mammoth program. From data collections to data analysis, monitoring and managing of this program on a real-time basis, is encouraging these backward districts to aspire and become the best national districts of the states in the next five years.
Rama Kamaraju, Sr Consultant, Office of CEO, Niti Aayog, who was speaking at the 26th edition of Express Computer’s Tech Sabha in Jaipur says, “The ‘Aspirational District Program’ is a Modi Government scheme that ranks them on five main themes — health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion, and skill development. We measure the reforms in these districts on a real-time basis, verified by third parties. This way, the district collectors of these aspirational districts get to know in real-time how they are doing, and what they can learn from other districts.”
Under the program, 115 districts from across 28 states have been selected where states like Delhi, Goa and Union Territories are not a part of this program. This program is different from any of the programs carried out by the previous governments. A team has been identified comprising of senior joint and additional secretary to Government of India, principal secretary from the state level and district magistrates. This ground team carries out interventions and development work in a focused mission mode manner so they can make the best national districts in the next five years.
“Nudging is the new concept for influencing a behavioural change in the society. This dwells around the socio-economic parameters and ease of living of citizens at the district levels. We are also applying newer concepts and technologies to this program and making districts compete with each other on a real-time basis. This is fostering development in a quick and sustainable manner,” Kamaraju informs.
Apart from sharing the key responsibilities of various stakeholders and early response of this program, Kamaraju highlights the technical aspects for monitoring and management of the aspirational district’s program. He says, “ Niti Aayog has created a dashboard for monitoring real-time progress of districts. Each district has a mandate to update the dashboard on a monthly basis. This data helps in exemplifying the spirit of competitive federalism. Moreover, other districts can learn from each other’s experiences using the “Best Practices” document that NITI Aayog has prepared and circulated to the district collectors.”
Kamaraju also emphasises on the need for the states to become agents of change, and for each state to compete with and learn from one another. According to him there were many districts across Indian states that were keeping the country backward. Technology has helped in connecting, monitoring and maintaining the records of these different districts located in highly remote areas.
“One of the biggest challenges was measurements and monitoring of the progress of this program. Since this program has the high attention of PM and all the CMs of states are actively involved, the progress of the program gets regularly monitored and revived by seniors officials. Another challenge was data collections. The real-time dashboard has made districts information officers responsible for the data entry with the technical help from NIC. Now, we can say it is one of the cleanest and available data to have access to all the decision-makers. This data is available in the public domain which is monitored in tandem with other offices.”
Niti Aayog, along with NIC and technology companies, are improving the quality of data getting generated and entered online. Training and skilling of the data operators have been improving.
He also points out the high aspirations of the various districts which are adopting latest technologies and resolving hard socio economic problems related to education, health, and nutrition. With the help of technologies some districts are solving issues like school drop out rates and improving learning outcomes.
Kamaraju gives an example of how Khandwa, an aspirational district of Madhya Pradesh is using technologies such as lok Sevak app, e-attendance and field monitoring tools using geotagging covering workers of 12 different departments of the government using this application in collecting thumb impressions for e-attendance. He also adds that a district in Ranchi and at Banka in Bihar, the issue of lack of teachers due to remotely located schools has been bridged with the help of applications in the regional language.
Kamaraju encourages various government departments to support the program through awareness and seek feedbacks on making this program more technologically advanced.