Evidence-Based Policymaking: A Path to Data Culture

Article by Sajana Maharjan Amatya and Pranaya Sthapit: “…The first requirement of evidence-based planning is access to a supply of timely and reliable data. In Nepal, local governments produce lots of data, but it is too often locked away in multiple information systems operated by each municipal department. Gaining access to the data in these systems can be difficult because different departments often use different, proprietary formats. These information siloes block a 360 degree view of the available data—to say nothing of issues like redundancy, duplication, and inefficiency—and they frustrate public participation in an age when citizens expect streamlined digital access.

As a first step towards solving this artificial problem of data supply, D4D helps local governments gather their data onto one unified platform to release its full potential. We think of this as creating a “data lake” in each municipality for decentralized, democratic access. Freeing access to this already-existing evidence can open the door to fundamental changes in government procedures and the development and implementation of local policies, plans, and strategies.

Among the most telling shortcomings of Nepal’s legacy data policies has been the way that political interests have held sway in the local planning process, as exemplified by the political decision to distribute equal funds to all wards regardless of their unequal needs. In a more rational system, information about population size and other socioeconomic data about relative need would be a much more important factor in the allocation of funds. The National Planning Commission, a federal agency, has even distributed guidelines to Nepal’s local governments indicating that budgets should not simply be equal from ward to ward. But in practice, municipalities tend to allocate the same budget to each of their wards because elected leaders fear they will lose votes if they don’t get an equal share. Inevitably, ignoring evidence of relative need leads to the ad hoc allocation of funds to small, fragmented initiatives that mainly focus on infrastructure while overlooking other issues.

The application of available data to the planning cycle is what evidence-based planning is all about. The key is to codify the use of data throughout the planning process. So, D4D developed a framework and guidelines for evidence-based budgeting and planning for elected officials, committee members, and concerned citizens…(More)”.