No Longer an 'Uphill' TaskUsing Data and Technology Tools For Better Governance in Remote Himalayan Villages
We were tasked with improving the governance structures of 8 Gram Panchayats in the Bageshwar district of Uttarakhand – sparsely populated, surrounded by the jungles and spread across the Kumaon mountain ranges. Difficult topographic conditions, lack of road and telephone connectivity and long distance from the district headquarters had lead to poor development planning and improper allocation of government resources in these areas.
When we first reached the 8 Gram Panchayats after multiple days of travel through uncarpeted roads and treks through mountain valleys, our goal was clear – we did not wish to be another organisation coming over with lofty promises and short lived development activities. We were here for the long haul, to collect empirical evidence for presenting it to the people’s representatives while building sustainable digital systems that could be used by government officials and other non-profits operating in the region to collect the needs of the villages remotely and allow allocation of government resources accordingly.
Upon discussions with multiple focus groups, attending Gram Sabhas and interacting with vulnerable stakeholders, we designed a 6-part survey to gather the needs of the communities. We built and deployed a mobile data collection tool that could work in the remote villages, without any internet connectivity.
We trained 40+ youth over a period of 1 month on data collection and operations. Communities were empowered on monitoring their infrastructure, livelihood, education, healthcare and other needs regularly. The data collected is communicated to concerned officials directly through cloud servers.
Government officials and line departments are now using the household data collected, geo tagged information about roads, schools, Primary Health Care centres and Anganwadi centres to prioritise to prioritise the needs of the gram panchayats and design interventions in a targeted manner.
Government officials can now design infrastructure projects based on geo-tagged locations of schools, PHCs and Anganwadi Centres. Potential beneficiary list for various government schemes can now be accessed at the touch of a button. MGNREGA activities can be used to employ the most vulnerable section of society. Now, with more than 250 metrics available at the touch of a button, government officials do not have to travel all the way to design and monitor government activities.