Data innovations, digital systems can help improve public sector delivery: Dr. Sania

Washington, Sep 17 (APP): Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation and Social Protection, Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar Friday said data innovations and digital delivery systems can vitally help improve the public sector delivery and enable those in distress to seek social support during the times of crisis.

Dr. Sania was sharing lessons for the region from COVID-19 Ehsaas Emergency Cash (EEC) at the World Bank’s 7th One South Conversation on leveraging technologies to build human capital and greater resilience in South Asia, held in Washington.

The World Bank’s Regional Integration, Cooperation and Engagement in South Asia hosted the public event that was broadcast on the World Bank Group Live Page.

Speaking on the occasion, she said, “The Ehsaas COVID 19 experience has specific learnings for other countries that utilize unique personal identification systems. Because it demonstrates that by cell phone SMS messaging, internet connectivity, national IDs, and the capability of commercial banks, a demand-based system can be created to enable those in distress to seek social support during times of crisis, essentially an adaptive system which contributes to building resilience at scale as well”.

She said, further adding, “Our experience has taught us that data innovations and digital delivery systems, can only be deployed when there is a commitment to integrity, transparency, and accountability overall. And, it is only when you combine these that you are able to address the long-standing fault lines, that have plagued public sector delivery.”

“Our EEC experience has shown us how cash transfer programmes can be deployed to counter the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19, which presents a long-term predicament, she observed.”

The panel included senior policy makers and representatives from governments, tech entrepreneurs, academics, and civil society representatives from South Asia. 

The public event was moderated by Cecile Fruman, Director, Regional Integration and Engagement, South Asia. Alongside Dr. Sania, other panelists were: Dr. Khondekar A Mamum, Founder of CMED Bangladesh, a health-tech start up that provides preventive health services to over 3.3 million people and Rabi Karmacharya, from OLE Nepal that works to integrate technology to improve access to education with open-source digital platforms and teachers’ trainings, and others.  

The discussion explored the ways converging technologies can overcome regional barriers, promote cross-country collaboration to support recovery from COVID and other shocks, and build human capital and adaptable resilience in South Asia.

South Asia is among the fastest growing regions globally, with a vast human capital potential. By 2030, it will be home to over a quarter of the world’s working adults. Despite the potential, the region faces persistent human capital deficits—one out of every three children is stunted here, and four out 100 do not live beyond the age of five.

There are added challenges including low life expectancy, early deficits in learning, infectious disease burdens, and pervasive structural inequalities. 

COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these vulnerabilities and reversed much of the recent gains in human development. With deep disruptions, the pandemic has shifted focus on digitalization and use of converging technologies for delivering health, education, social protection services, and on building future pandemic and climate resilience. 

The ongoing tech-revolution offers tremendous opportunities, but also exposes striking digital inequality in the region.

The conversations also built on the recent World Bank publication, “The Converging Technology Revolution and Human Capital: Potential and Implications for South Asia”, that examines the ways technologies can accelerate human capital development, with a focus on improving service delivery, building adaptability and resilience, and promoting inclusion. The report was formally released on September 08, 2021.