The term data science generally gets associated with academia, research, education and its implementations at high end technology companies like Google, Amazon, Netflix, LinkedIn etc. In reality, that is only one of the many facets of data science, and its applications can touch every aspect of human life. One such area is for better governance and societal reforms.
The data science congress summit 2017, held in Mumbai, India, included this topic in one of their panel discussions. The panel was represented by key individuals from various government organizations like NSCS, reserve bank of India, NITI Aayog etc. They talked on how Indian government is taking conscious efforts to leverage data for handling various social challenges like security, governance, regulations, policy decision making etc. Among the elite panelists, Mr. J A Chaudhury, Special Chief Secretary & IT Adviser, CM of Govt. of AP stressed the importance of data science to generate employment and to bring in investments.
Mr. S M Sahai, joint secretary of National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) explained how data science is leveraged to improve the security of the nation. He highlighted the fact that data science cannot stay isolated within technical circles, and unless the analytical models are designed by people who are actually facing the security issues on the ground, it will be of little help.
Mr. Sahai stated that new archaic ideas are emerging through social media campaigns, which are causing potential threats to national security, and data science can come to rescue by predicting events before they actually happen, thus helping security organizations to become proactive instead of reactive. He also highlighted the need for the right policies and data governance framework. Mr. Sahai mentioned that “Although the basic principles remain the same, policies have to be customized to the changing environment. Data ownership laws and data access protocols should be defined by every country and they need to be mutually agreed across all countries globally to effectively address the security concerns of people“.
Mrs. Sushila Augustine, Chief data officer at reserve bank of India highlighted the need for data science in banking. She mentioned that if they had the necessary competencies in data science, they would have easily predicted the stealth demonetization move by Narendra Modi Govt, and would have been more prepared to handle the situation. Dr. Avik Sarkar, Head – Data Science Cell, National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) explained how they were using data science capabilities to achieve their objectives of measuring the performance of individual states on parameters like education, healthcare, water management, energy efficiency, innovation etc.
Dr. Sarkar highlighted the need of using real data instead of survey data for formulating key central policies and governance framework. He also highlighted the need of using sophisticated data science techniques of simulation and forecasting in the world of policy making. Dr. Sarkar mentioned that NITI Aoyog tries to leverage India’s open government data platform, but there are still a lot of issues regarding data quality, continuity, completeness and context which need further attention.
The data science summit 2017, organized by Data science congress, was attended by various high profile corporate delegates across the country and many data science professionals, students and enthusiasts. The panel discussion on data science for better governance and society was moderated by Narayan Madhavan, a leading journalist of India.