UN and Data Collection

 January 2004

 

 

 

UNDP-supported State Human Development Reports and Statistical Systems: Experiences from India 1

Since 1990, the Human Development Reports (HDRs) have emerged as an important advocacy tool in directing the world's attention to human development attainments. It is not uncommon in the development world to have the human development index (HDI) of the countries being quoted almost as performance grades in a report card. In India, the ranking of India vis-à-vis others is widely commented on by the media following the release of the Human Development Report. Any change in India's ranking (particularly downward) is cause of much public debate.

The human development index is computed on the basis of select indicators reflecting attainments in health, education and standard of living. Getting comparable data across different countries which follow different methodologies for data collection has been a constant challenge for the Human Development Reports.

In India, the responsibility of assessing the status of human development lies in the domain of the State governments. Acknowledging the usefulness of the HDRs in highlighting the regional variations in human development attainments and thereby focusing the government's attention to sectors and people that need financial or other assistance, the Government of Madhya Pradesh undertook the preparation of Madhya Pradesh Human Development Report which was released in 1995; it was the first sub-national HDR in the world.

Since then there has been a movement of sorts and almost all State governments are at some stage or the other of preparing their State Human Development Reports (SHDRs). Seven States have so far prepared their SHDRs, nine are being finalized and three are being written. Preliminary discussions are ongoing with 12 other State governments who have expressed interest in the preparation of their respective HDRs.

The SHDRs facilitate the State governments in taking note of intra-state variations in the level of attainment in the different dimensions, and to direct policies and investments in a manner that meet the requirements of districts and/or communities that are lagging behind.

As in the case of global Human Development Reports, the State HDRs also generate public debates on the rankings of the districts, the human development index value and the analysis behind this number. If the human development index and the ranking of each district generate that much public debate, it better be based on extremely sound data.

One of the persistent problems across all the States has been the availability of reliable data at the district level. As mentioned above, the human development index comprises three indices _ the education index (computed from the literacy rate and the enrollment), the health index (computed from life expectancy) and the income index (computed from per capita income). Data for compiling the education index is easier to get rather that the other two and therein lies the challenge.

It must be acknowledged that the State governments have put in a lot of effort to overcome the data problems while computing the HDI. While some governments have used different indicators than those used by the Global HDR, some have undertaken primary surveys to gather the required data. Realising the constraints in computing district incomes, the Planning Commission supported the preparation of a training manual for "Estimating district income in India" which has been disseminated to all the districts.

The preparation of SHDRs has brought to the fore the lacunae in the existing data systems in the States. It has also sensitized the State governments on the importance of having good statistical system.

Around the time that the HDI was gaining acceptance came the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in India, paving way for political, administrative and fiscal decentralisation. The process of decentralised and district planning has begun and is steadily gathering momentum across the States. Needless to say, any planning is as good as the data and information that it is based on.

Thus, in the Indian context, strengthening statistical systems so as to capture district level data can no longer afford to be in the realms of theoretical debates. Recognizing this, the Government of India set up a National Statistical Commission (NSC) to comprehensively review the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian Statistical System which submitted its Report to the government in September 2001.

It is true that the Indian Statistical System is a decentralised one with fairly well organised structure. It is also true that it is comparable to the best anywhere in the world and has provided technical expertise to many developing countries around the world.

However, there are areas that need to be strengthened. In its Report, the NSC, while complementing the statisticians in the country for their commendable work in various fields of official statistics, also noted that urgent action was called for revamping the statistical system to improve its credibility, timeliness and adequacy.

The recommendations of the NSC, respective SHDRs as also the Tenth Plan document point to the urgency of having better data for decision making and tracking performance on various human development parameters at national and State level.

At a workshop held in December 2003, "Critical Reflections on State Human Development Reports", attended by representatives from 16 States, the Planning Commission and UNDP, the participants reiterated the need for strengthening State statistical systems.

Taking cognizance of the data challenges, UNDP, in partnership with the Planning Commission and State governments, is embarking on a project aimed at strengthening State statistical systems. The tracking of performance with regard to national and global development goals through appropriate database development, the availability of relevant data at appropriate level of disaggregation (State, district and local level) and capacity building at the level of data collection and analysis are important components of this project.

 

Agricultural Database & FAO 2

World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT ) contributes to the Food and Agriculture Organization's mandate to collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information relating to nutrition, food and agriculture

FAO and its Member Nations highlight information as one of the priority areas in achieving agricultural development and food security. FAO established the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) as a corporate framework for agricultural information management and dissemination. This is a strategic effort to fight hunger with information.

The WAICENT framework integrates and harmonizes standards, tools and procedures for the efficient and effective management and dissemination of high-quality technical information, including relevant and reliable statistics, texts, maps, and multimedia resources. WAICENT was established in response to the high priority accorded by FAO to:

i. the enhancement of access to timely and relevant technical information by FAO Member Nations and the general public; and

ii. the encouragement of FAO Member Nations to utilize information as a key resource for development.

Since the creation of WAICENT in 1989, there have been enormous advances in information technology and the task of managing and disseminating information in a digital environment has become increasingly complex. Two tasks in particular are assuming greater importance: first to enable better access to FAO's information resources and to promote partnerships with other agricultural information networks; and, second to assist FAO Member Nations to build their own capacity to manage and utilize food and agricultural information.

Improving Access to Information

The FAO Website (http://www.fao.org) provides access to information on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, sustainable rural development, economics, food and nutrition. The FAO WAICENT Portal is one of the tools for navigating and accessing the rich content of the site, incorporating the WAICENT Information Finder.

The FAO Website is a comprehensive source of agricultural information, having approximately 500 000 web pages, over 100 databases, and thousands of documents. With over two million visits per month, the Website gives access to the accumulated knowledge and expertise of FAO. This information helps to guide decision-makers and professionals in finding solutions to the challenges of sustainable agriculture development and hunger. The Website is also useful for informing the general public about key issues in agriculture.

Among the many specialized information systems included the FAO WAICENT Portal (http://www.fao.org/waicent) are the following:

l FAO Statistical Databases (FAOSTAT): http://apps.fao.org/default.htm

l EMPRES System: http://www.fao.org/empres

l Global Information and Early Warning System: http://www.fao.org/giews/english/giewse.htm

l Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS): http://www.fivims.org

l FAO Country Profiles and Mapping Information System: http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles

l International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology (AGRIS): http://www.fao.org/agris/

l FAO Corporate Document Repository: http://www.fao.org/documents

Many of FAO's specialized information systems are also available on CD-ROMs: FAOSTAT, AGRIS, Gender and Food Security, and Combating Desertification, among many others.

Information Management Standards

Effective information integration, retrieval, and exchange require agreed standards. For over 20 years, FAO has been setting standards in information management in agricultural development and food security. FAO works with Member Nations and other partners to develop and disseminate global standards and procedures for agricultural information management and exchange. For example, the agricultural metadata standards initiative (AgMES) and the Agricultural Ontology Service (AOS) are two internationally-recognized initiatives led by FAO and aimed at improving standards globally within the WAICENT framework. With partners such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), FAO promotes the adoption of standards for agricultural data exchange and retrieval through the adoption of XML and other new techniques. For more information, visit http://www.fao.org/gil.

Capacity Building and Outreach in Information Management

FAO works closely with stakeholders in Member Nations and fosters international partnerships under the WAICENT framework to develop facilities and networks for access to and sharing of agricultural information. Areas of collaboration include improving efficiency, quality and relevance of knowledge exchange in agriculture, and using electronic media to enhance communication for rural development. Activities also include:

l Capacity Building Activities - advice and technical assistance for governments, institutions and rural communities to strengthen capacities in agricultural information management and the effective use of information and communication technologies. For more information, visit http://www.fao.org/gil.

l The Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK) - a partnership-

based e-learning initiative comprising a comprehensive suite of distance learning resources covering concepts, approaches and tools for agricultural information management. IMARK is being delivered as a series of distance learning modules on CD which introduce basic concepts of agricultural information management and provide non-proprietary software applications and methodological guides. IMARK is being developed in partnership with international, regional and specialized agencies who are facing the same challenges in capacity building in information management. For more information, visit http://www.fao.org/imark/

Intergovernmental Process

The Consultation on Agricultural Information Management (COAIM) is an intergovernmental process for FAO's Member Nations to discuss and set policies related to management of and access to agricultural information. Through COAIM, FAO Member Nations also establish a global framework for prioritizing information management activities. For more information, visit http://www.fao.org/coaim/ .

FAO has launched a new online section listing the Organization's extensive global network of decentralized offices and Country Representations. Linked to the FAO Country Profiles and Information Mapping System Web site, the section details the Organization's global presence with a series of interactive maps showing the location of Regional Offices, Sub-regional Offices, Liaison Offices and its 78 Country Representations.

Full details of each office are provided as well as the link to the relevant Website. In addition, the Country Representation area allows the user to view the country profile for the country selected.

The FAO Country Profiles and Mapping Information System is a pioneering information retrieval tool which groups the organization's vast archive of information on its global activities in agriculture and development in a single area and catalogues it exclusively by country.

 

Estimations on HIV prevalence in India 3

Having accurate data on the HIV/AIDS epidemic is crucial in the planning of the response to HIV/AIDS. Globally, UNAIDS is the leading resource for epidemiological data on HIV/AIDS. An important part of this work is to assist countries in improving HIV data collection, validation, modelling and estimates in order to guide effective responses to the global epidemic at country level.

In India, it is the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) which is responsible for estimating the epidemic in the country. UNAIDS and WHO work closely with NACO in order to improve the present surveillance system and review the assumptions that the estimations are made upon.

A HIV sentinel survey is conducted every year in India. In 2001 the survey was conducted in 320 sites across all the States and Union Territories _ covering both rural and urban areas. The sites include sites for traditionally high risk groups (135 sites in Sexual Transmitted Disease (STD) clinics, 13 sites for Injecting Drug Users (IDU) and 2 sites for Men who have sex with men (MSM)). The sites also include 170 sites in Antenatal Clinics to cover the general population. Based on the HIV prevalence rates in these groups, the number of HIV infections was estimated at the national level. While making the estimates, certain assumptions are taken into consideration. These assumptions had evolved on the basis of consultation with a group of experts including epidemiologists, bio-statisticians, WHO and UNAIDS.

To improve the previous estimates, the number of sentinel sites was increased in 2002 with the inclusion of 64 new sites, to a total on 384 sentinel sites. The survey was conducted from 1 August _ 15 November 2002. The expert group, consisting of NACO, the Indian Council of Medical Research, epidemiologists and bio-statisticians (national and international), WHO and UNAIDS, reviewed the procedures and data used for estimation. It was decided that for the first time India should present a range instead of a point estimate. This is considered more scientific, and reflects better the situation in the field.

As per the recommendations of this Expert Group, the HIV estimates for the year 2002 have been worked out to be 3.82 _ 4.58 million HIV infections in the adult population (15-49 years age group in the country).

The data from India is also included in the yearly "AIDS Epidemic Update" published by WHO and UNAIDS on World AIDS Day 1 December 2003.

 

For more information on the estimations of the HIV/AIDS prevalence in India please visit www.naco.nic.in

For more information on epidemiological data please visit www.unaids.org

UNIFEM and Data Collection 4

Working on an empowerment framework, UNIFEM uses diverse strategies to promote gender equality. One of the key ways it does this is by improving statistics on gender and removing the cloak of invisibility from women's work.

A critical element in the economic empowerment of women is the establishment of sex disaggregated data for gender responsive policies, plans and budgets. A paucity of this data, as well as prevalent misconceptions and prejudices about women's actual input to economic development greatly hamper this process. Since women are not perceived as economic entities, their work and contribution to the economy remain undervalued and under-recorded, contributing to their invisibility to policymakers and development planners. Although active in the economy, they tend to find themselves confined to lower positions with longer hours of work, lower wages, poor working conditions and little job security. The irony is that despite bearing double or triple burden of the paid and the unpaid economies, women have limited or no entitlements in terms of access and control over income and resources.

The worst affected women are those in the informal sector where a majority are located and where employment has risen significantly over the past two decades in South Asia. In fact, the share of the informal sector in non-agricultural workforce in Asia is highest in South Asia. Because of the informal nature of their work, many of them are not considered to be working at all, leading to an inaccurate recording of their contribution to the economy. This leads to women being viewed as a liability and as recipients of welfare programmes, rather than as primary workers with rights as workers. This invisibility, in turn, spills over into policies, programmes and resource allocations. For example, though home-based workers and migrant women workers contribute to national economies and household incomes, they remain invisible in official statistics, national accounts and official planning processes. In its work, UNIFEM is working to promote their rights, particularly with regard to their roles as producers and contributors.

To make women's contribution visible and to institutionalize the capacity to produce gender sensitive data within countries of South Asia, UNIFEM works in partnership with Governments, UN agencies and NGOs to engender census exercises in the region. As early as 1991, UNIFEM assisted the Census Exercise in both India and Pakistan and initiated dialogue with the Central Bureau of Statistics in Nepal. For the 1991 Census in India, working with the Government of India, the Office of the Registrar General of India, SNDT Women's University and women's groups, UNIFEM sought to ensure the collection of data that would accurately reflect women's work in India. The initiative began a process, whereby women's work was highlighted and accurate data on women captured through subsequent census operations in the country. UNIFEM supported this process with gender sensitive "definitions of work", which endeavoured to ensure that household work is recognized as legitimate work. Gender sensitive questions were designed, master trainers were trained, as was the census staff, using appropriate media advocacy to make the exercise user-friendly.

To engender the 2001 Census in India, UNIFEM collaborated with the Census Commissioner and the Department of Women and Child Development (DWCD) in partnership with UNICEF and UNFPA. Focusing particularly on women's work, gaps were identified in eliciting gender sensitive responses from the community in various states of India through action research. Media advocacy and publicity were undertaken to sensitize the general public, especially respondents. The questionnaire was revised to include probing questions by enumerators, directed to capturing women's unrecorded work, and visuals were used to extract more information on what women are doing. It worked with various experts on issues related to gender disaggregated data to make the 2001 Census more gender responsive. The results of the Census show better recording of work participation, especially female work participation rate (FWPR), which increased from 22.3 percent in 1991 to 25.7 percent in 2001. Through the Inter-agency Sub-Group on Sex Disaggregated Data, which UNIFEM leads, follow up work has been undertaken to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the 2001 Census and to document lessons learnt.

In Nepal, working in close partnership with the Central Bureau of Statistics, His Majesty's Government of Nepal, UNIFEM provided technical expertise and collaborated with UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF to engender the 2001 Census. The initiative supported national institutions responsible for providing gender sensitive data for local planning. The efforts encompassed reviewing the manual, the questionnaire and conducting the training of enumerators and key personnel involved in Census operations. As a result, the definition of work participation rate for the 2001 Census has been modified to include livestock related work done for subsistence. As post-census activity, UNIFEM is supporting the Census Bureau to oversee the sex-disaggregation of all census results and to come up with specific statistical tables addressing gender issues. This process has led to institutionalization of gender sensitive methodologies and analysis in data collection and redefinition of a woman worker. The result of this analysis is expected to stimulate further engendering of national policies and plans taking into account women's contributions and their producer/worker status.

In Pakistan, in partnership with UNFPA, UNIFEM joined the Pakistan Census Organization in a collaborative exercise to gender sensitize the 1998 Census. For the first time, NGOs built alliances for this immense effort. Partnerships with two key NGOs were initiated to mobilize a network of grassroots level NGOs to sensitize the enumeration process and carry out media advocacy to make women's contribution visible. Enormous gender training for enumerators was undertaken and over 120 NGOs organized with 118 district level meetings being conducted to raise awareness.

In Bhutan, in 1992, UNIFEM supported the first ever gender disaggregated survey through a time allocation survey, conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Royal Government of Bhutan. Examining the work patterns of rural women and men, it highlighted work that was time and labour intensive and could be made easier with improved technology. Giving visibility to women's work and their contributions was central to this survey.

In the Maldives, in 1992, UNIFEM supported the Ministry of Planning and Environment to conduct a national survey on sex disaggregated data for the first time, in collaboration with the Department of Women's Affairs. It sought to sensitize policy-makers and senior officials on the gender dimensions in development; to help identify the development needs of women; and to give rise to a commitment to increase the participation of women in development efforts.

UNIFEM's experience in engendering the data collection systems in South Asia has given it the comparative advantage, of not only taking it forward to other countries in the region, but also of lobbying for further analysis of women's work and time-use. This is being done through a series of gender analysis exercises using Census Data and National Time Use Surveys. To validate the use of time use survey as a survey technique for improving the sex disaggregated database in the country as well as to understand the policy implications of the results for integrating paid and unpaid work into macro policies, UNIFEM collaborated with the Central Statistical Organization, Government of India and the Centre for Development Alternatives, to organize a seminar on Applications of Time Use Statistics.

With its commitment to and experience in improving the visibility of women in national accounting, UNIFEM has been providing technical support to a number of countries in the South Asia region. This serves to enhance the gender responsiveness of statistical systems, based on an innovative approach, which ensures that the process of data collection, analysis, compilation and dissemination is furthered through user-producer dialogue and consultation. The process seeks to ensure that the produced data will highlight gender differentiation and its implications for planning, policy making and resource allocation. Moreover, it promotes regional cross fertilization to make optimum use of knowledge and learning. By providing a common platform, UNIFEM facilitates a multi-way education process, involving the Census Departments of the Governments, UN agencies, academics, researchers, demographers, enumerators and respondents, NGOs and the women's movement.

Words need numbers to influence development interventions. It is a fact that as long as women remain statistically invisible, their work, their lives and their disadvantages will remain invisible and silent to policy makers and leaders. Recognizing that unless steps are taken to put women squarely on the books, UNIFEM is committed to ensuring that the productivity of half the workforce does not remain in the shadows. By improving statistics on gender issues, it provides a strategic entry point for a more integrated approach to gender responsive development planning, which has the participation of women in all levels of development planning and practice.

 

WFP and Data Collection 5 

When the World Food Programme (WFP) draws up its emergency and development operations in any country, its first priority is always to identify the hungry poor: Who are the vulnerable? Where do they live? Why are they hungry? WFP then determines how to allocate scarce resources by determining what the communities would benefit most from food aid. To accomplish these tasks, WFP has a special unit called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) that employs statistical and participatory methods to deliver information that allows it to target the right people in the right place at the right time. VAM uses information based on satellite images, and employs analysis and mapping techniques in a standard analytical framework for studying food security situation in a country. The "Food Insecurity Atlas of Rural India" and the "Food Insecurity Atlas of Urban India" and the "Food Sustainability Atlas of India" are the results of these processes in India. These analysis, however, are based on the state level information.

WFP's focus being on food insecure households and communities, it is important to have information at the district, block and village level. Unfortunately, at these levels, information on many of the key indicators like poverty, calorie intake, stunting, wasting, etc. are not always available from secondary sources. There are also certain indicators like e.g. intra-household food distribution on, which, information are not available from the secondary sources, at any level. As part of the Country Programme (2003-08) baseline requirement, thus, WFP has entered into a collaboration with National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) of India for generating additional information on food, health and nutrition, education, etc. with an enhanced sample size so as to have statistically significant estimates of indicators at the district level. Currently, the information is being collected as part of the regular NSSO round (58th) in 6 districts of six states, on a pilot basis.

Furthermore, this information is also supplemented by qualitative information as well through "Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Profiles (FIVP)". In FIVP, WFP collects data pertaining to issues of various communities and groups, community level coping mechanisms during times of disaster, lean agricultural period, etc at the village level. These are based on participatory methods like focussed group discussion, social mapping, transect walk, etc.

Importantly, the database collected and generated by WFP has been continuously contributing to the joint Inter-UN agency pool of information on various aspects of development including food. This includes WFP's contribution to the DevInfo software, the joint database system of UN agencies.

In summary, the process of data collection in WFP is a mix of varieties of information on both quantitative and qualitative parameters that helps taking a stock of the food, nutrition, health and education issues at any point of time.