mfioretti: india* + open data*

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  1. The demonization of India's watchdog agencies is neither new nor unexpected, but foreign funding is a particularly sensitive issue. In fact, India's Intelligence Bureau is not the only organ of state investigating the matter. In a follow-up to the report, India's Ministry of Home Affairs claimed that the country's NGOs are "vulnerable to the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing." And on July 4, India's Supreme Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation, another domestic intelligence agency, to complete its probe into NGO finances after entertaining a public interest lawsuit last year against the Hind Swaraj Trust, an outfit founded and run by the famous anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare.

    Despite having full charitable status in accordance with Indian law, Greenpeace's Indian subsidiary is now subject to a new set of rigid rules. It must obtain the approval of the Indian Home Ministry before it can accept any future donations from the U.S.-based Climate Works Foundation or its parent body, Greenpeace International.

    This policing of NGO finances has an insidious history. In India's war of attrition against civil society organizations, starving them of funds has been the preferred mode of attack.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-07-21)
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  2. DELHI: In a bid to ensure welfare benefits were not cornered by those close to bureaucrats and politicians, Mission Convergence had created a super-database containing information about vulnerable households.

    As an accompanying ET story argues, this database was not updated. The programme also ran into successful opposition from departments and politicians re: the attempt to remove their role in beneficiary selection.

    Both factors resulted in the exclusion of deserving households. However, these were not the only two factors at work. There was a third one as well. In 2008, when Delhi decided to overhaul welfare delivery, the database was just one of the two vectors along which it was innovating. The second was the GRCs -- or, the Gender Resource Centres.
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  3. In 2008, despite running several welfare programmes, Delhi was faring poorly on Human Development Indices. The existing system of targeting was not working.

    "The only people receiving benefits were those known to the department or the politicians," says Rakesh Mehta, who was Delhi's chief secretary at the time. This was partly because there was no accurate way to identify the poor.

    Databases of welfare departments were unreliable; no census had been done to ascertain BPL (below poverty line) households; every welfare department followed a different yardstick to gauge eligibility.

    "Poor poverty estimates resulted in low budgetary estimates on welfare outlays. This, in turn, resulted in further exclusion," says Amod Kumar, head of the community health department at St Stephen's Hospital, who worked on this overhaul in its early days. In response, the Sheila Dikshit government took a two-pronged approach.

    One, like MP, it decided to created a database of all vulnerable households in the state. Two, it outsourced the last mile to NGOs. 'Gender resource centres', each managed by an NGO, were made responsible for a cluster households, of 10,000 to 100,000.

    They had to keep this database updated, inform people about new schemes and help them access entitlements by functioning as a single window to government services. In the new system, selection of beneficiaries would move away from departments and local authorities like MPs and MLAs.

    Instead, the database would be queried for names of households/individuals eligible for welfare schemes. Five years on, Mission Convergence and its database-driven approach lies in shambles. Women ET spoke to complained of exclusion from the state food programme and a lack of awareness about government programmes.
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  4. Skewed interpretation of data leads to screwed policies. If there is any state in India which badly needs to have a Ministry for men welfare and development, it is Kerala going by feminists logic.

    No one denies female foeticide / infanticide are evils which needs to be eradicated. But just because the sex ratio isn’t perfectly 1:1 doesn’t mean the society is regressive and women need more/special privileges to increase the number to make the society perfectly Fisherian. Fact is nothing can change what nature wishes. 1000:900 / 1000:1100 is perfectly okay sex ratio to have and it will automatically balance itself if not for infanticide. In India 1000:900 will work best until older men marry younger women as they will be borrowing females from future. If the ratio reverses, women will have to marry younger men or marry outside the region. Will a Congress PM / anyone other than Narendra Modi as PM automagically change the sex ratio? Have they done it in the past? Then why is it even a factor?
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  5. At KLP, we try to make information on the status of public schools available, in order to allow elected representatives to better allocate budgets and improve local schools. Last academic year, KLP published overviews on:

    The demographics of government schools and preschools
    Financial allocations to government schools
    Infrastructure of government schools

    Some of the questions we were able to ask of data for this report were:

    How many schools are there in this electoral region? How many students?
    What’s the gender profile?
    What categories of schools exist? What is enrollment per category?
    Which local langauges are spoken, and are there sufficient schools to meet the needs of a multilingual community?
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2012-10-12)
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  6. many (or even most) people find it difficult to interpret visually-represented data – even when this is displayed in relatively simple bar charts and line graphs. Learning how to decode visually represented information is a skill that needs to be developed like any other. With these fresh insights into the challenges that people face, hopefully the School of Data can work to address basic data literacy skills, and improve people’s ability to both present and interpret visual data.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2012-10-12)
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  7. -
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2012-09-18)
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  8. open data is a global phenomenon, so let’s take a look at open data around the world.
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  9. The Dalit claim to their ancestors land was sideswiped by a Tamil Nadu government program to standardize, digitize and centralize land records.
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  10. We recognised a lack of publicly available data about public education was causing an imbalance between the education system and its usersand within the system itself, so we set up the Karnataka Learning Partnership.

    We need to bring about transparency and use data-based evidence to push for reforms and accountability across the system.Usually, that would mean using existing government data, but our experience has highlighted a lack of technical and legal systems to be able to publish open educational dataand we have had to create the data sets ourselves.
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