Reliable data a must for sustainable development
Reliable data helped the government take necessary policy measures in the healthcare and financial sectors to keep people and businesses alive amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to speakers at a virtual dialogue yesterday.
"The demand for credible real-time data has increased manifold during the Covid-19 pandemic," said Debapriya Bhattacharya, a distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
The event, styled "Data-driven policy making during the pandemic: taking the experience forward", was organised by the CPD in partnership with the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh.
"The pandemic has indeed raised awareness regarding the need for data and its use for decision making," he added.
Bhattacharya said availability of data on socioeconomic progress had helped Bangladesh place its case for graduation from the group of the least-developed countries.
He also highlighted three sets of challenges -- technical, institutional and political -- that could impede the country's full economic recovery from Covid-19.
Against this backdrop, Muntaseer Kamal, senior research associate at the CPD, focused on health-related data initiatives taken by Bangladesh to combat the rogue virus.
He also highlighted the use of data for coronavirus-related public policy interventions and the pandemic's overall effect on the flow of mainstream economic data.
He went on to say that the ongoing crisis has given rise to a range of adverse socio-economic and health impacts.
These fallouts have exponentially increased the demand for reliable data from healthcare professionals, policymakers and the public at large, Kamal said.
Shahnaz Arefin, secretary to the Statistics and Informatics Division, mentioned that data interoperability was important and that data should be accessible by all relevant stakeholders to avoid duplication.
Swiss Ambassador Nathalie Chuard said her embassy was supporting evidence-based research in order to complement Bangladesh's attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Global partnership initiatives are also emphasising data issues at the national level.
"In this spirit, Switzerland will continue to support the data ecosystem in Bangladesh as a part of their country strategy," she added.
Mohammad Tajul Islam, director-general of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, focused on the demand for quarterly data from various domestic and international agencies and the users of macroeconomic aggregates.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, another distinguished fellow of the CPD, said cross-border information sharing was relevant in the context of pandemic response as monitoring traveller mobility has also become critical.
Anir Chowdhury, programme adviser of the data innovation cluster at the Aspire to Innovate (a2i), said national identity was the single thread that binds many data platforms together but it was not enough.
"Data-sharing partnership works most effectively when there is a partnership platform to share data," he added.
Morseda Chowdhury, director for the health, nutrition and population programme at Brac, said data analytics was as important as data availability, especially for policymakers.
So, analyses should be carried out at the repository level and unique identification is necessary not only for health issues, but also for social security and other purposes.
"We should also ensure equity and capacity development across the system, particularly for small organisations lacking the required resources," Chowdhury added.
Rumana Huque, a professor of economics at the University of Dhaka, suggested a steering committee coordinate data initiatives at the national level.