Article: Data Availability and Accessibility Key Challenges for Bangladesh

by the Centre for Policy Dialogue

Data producers at the country-level must ensure availability, reliability and accessibility while generating data at the country-level for the proposed Post-2015 goals, observed participants at a workshop on Post-2015 Data Test.

The Inception Workshop was held at BRAC Centre Inn Auditorium on 11 March 2014, on the initiative titled “Unpacking the Data Revolution at the Country Level: An Early Examination of Candidate Post-2015 Goals, Targets and Indicators,” led by CPD and North-South Institute (NSI), Canada, in association with Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals.

The initiative aims to apply a select set of candidate post-2015 goals, targets and indicators to a number of low, middle and high income countries. In doing so, it will assess the adequacy of data available for measuring post-2015 progress at the country level, seeking to inform debates and decisions on the architecture and priorities of a “data revolution.”

To support the post-2015 framework, the “data revolution” seeks to enable governments and policymakers to better track development progress, and equip people with the information they need to demand more from their governments.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director, CPD presented the proposed 14 Post-2015 Goals, formulated by the NSI, SV and CPD and clustered into five thematic areas, namely Poverty, Inequality, Food Security and Employment; Health, Education and Gender; Environment, Sustainable Energy and Water-Sanitation; Governance and Peace-Security; and Global Partnership.

The Inception Workshop focused on the commonalities between the proposed goals and also ways and means to ensure approaches to and feasibility of the data generation processes as regards these goals. The participants were requested to brainstorm over the data measurement challenges and also find ways to adding and/or reducing the number of indicators by addressing their multifunctional aspects and come up with recommendations towards consolidating the goals.

One of the designated speakers at the workshop, Dr Mahabub Hossain, Advisor to the Executive Director, BRAC, said that it is very difficult to achieve any given goal without measuring and assessing the progress, especially goals around fuzzy areas like women empowerment and gender violence. In order to do this, Bangladesh needs to develop specific statistical system and set up verifiable and measurable indicators.

Dr Ainun Nishat, Vice-Chancellor, Brac University, said that the data generation process should be transparent and accessible. He noted the necessity to setup mechanism to monitor the data generation process as to who is going to collect and use it and whether the data is understandable and acceptable.

The Post-2015 Data has to be SMART, implying Specific, Measurable, Accessible, Relevant, Timely – stated CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya. He emphasised that data collection has to be disaggregated, and private data collection should be consistent and coherent with public data. He also mentioned that research think-tanks can contribute to the generation of knowledge, for empirical evidence based policymaking.

A key producer of data at the country-level in Bangladesh is the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), noted Professor Rahman. BBS needs to consider planning for what type of data they can generate for the Post-2015 goals, he added.

At the first plenary session, discussion outcomes with recommendations for prioritising goals in the five thematic areas were respectively presented by Dr Dipankar Roy, Deputy Director, National Accounting Wing, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS); Ms Jahida Gulshan, Assistant Professor, Institute of Statistical Research and Training (ISRT), University of Dhaka; Ms Tahreen Tahrima, Research Associate, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS); Professor Nazrul Islam, Research Director, Institute of Microfinance; and Mr Ruhul Amin, Deputy Secretary, FABA-1, Economic Relations Division (ERD), Ministry of Finance.

At the second plenary session, the participants were grouped into Data Producers, Analysts and Policymakers to examine key issues to data availability and accessibility. Mr Monirul Islam, Senior Assistant Chief, General Economic Division (GED), Planning Commission drew on the criteria for assessing data adequacy and how should target feasibility be assessed.

Discussion at the workshop was also addressed by Ambassador M Humayun Kabir, Vice-President, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI); Dr Manzoor Ahmed, Senior Advisor, Brac University Institute of Education and Development (BU-IED); Dr AK Enamul Haque, Professor, School of Business, United International University (UIU); Ms Riti Ibrahim, Former Secretary, Statistics Division, Government of Bangladesh; Mr Abul Kalam Azad, Head of National Accounting Wing, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS); Ms Nusha Chowdhury, Head of Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping, World Food Programme (WFP); Mr KM Enamul Hoque, Deputy Director, CAMPE among others.