Why is access to Census data not made available to businesses?

If I was running the government, I would digest how to use the Census data application by heart. Not sure if Gujarat Government is even looking at any census data because all the new schemes and benefits announced are continuously targeted to benefit the rich and wealthy while poor and socially backward people are ignored. Ratan Tata can be given subsidized land in Gujarat but if you are a son of "Rambhai" the hard working farmer, you will not even get an ear or any kind of help from Government.

One one side we talk about clean governance but on the other side, even the few Government programs for poor and needy have turned out to be huge money makers for Ministers and Govt Bureaucrats who we also call 'babus'. Poor and needy people in society hardly get full benefit of Government programs announced for them. Government's inability to provide Census data to others is impacting the society and fueling the widening gap between the rich and poor. If you are a private player or NGO wanting to help poor people directly, you do not have required access to Census data to look into and see where you should target your programs.

Look at US Census Application access http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/DatasetMainPageServlet?_program=ACS... good USA is in sharing census data can be seen from here.

Looking at India Census and Gujarat Census websites, you would think we are living in 1970's. Absolutely no modernization at all and the sites are pretty much useless.  If India and Gujarat has to show its vibrancy, we need to continue to make a wide use of technology and facilitate the needs of businesses.

I was just visiting http://www.vibrantgujarat.com site. It is supposedly developed and managed by India's largest IT services firm. But the application is painfully slow, confusing, has lots of bugs and is extremely difficult to access. On top of it, the B2B marketplace in the site is the most stupidest app I have seen although the idea was right, its implementation has been pathetic. If Gujarat's bureaucrats can come up with such a shoddy site for such a vital event like 'Vibrant Gujarat' where there is ton of tax payers money spent and readers should know that there would be no more than 10,000 entries in B2B Marketplace max to manage. If this cannot be done properly, what can one expect on Census data when you are managing 1200 million records and then asking for smart access or say 50 million gujarati databank? And we still talk about being a tech savvy state.!

Here is something that I do not understand at all. A private player has put up gujaratstat.com site. There is a membership based third party access to census data but I don't think it is even accurate. As a matter of fact, I was never contacted by anyone to get my data other than government and that too 10 years ago and just recently when new census data was collected in 2010. So this firm's data would be highly inaccurate and I have serious doubts in its source. It is a shame that government is not questioning such businesses in trying to mislead people giving statistical data. Census is and has to be very regulated subject because lot of organizations, non-profits and government departments make policy decisions on it. No company should be allowed to operate in this space unless it has access to government data and has government permission to reuse that data as-is and builds intelligence around it.

For a country like India with population of 1200 million, counting the entire populace is a huge task. To complete the process of getting data and tabulate the result and feed them in computer program is not a small task. The Indian Census is working hard every 10 years to collect this data. It takes 2 to 3 years to get the data in systems and derive some value. This is a huge multi-crore expense on govt exchequer. But I 100% appreciate the intent of spending this money because it is absolutely necessary. There is no doubt about it. Its primary purpose is to ensure an accurate appointment of seats in the Legistlative Assembly, demarkation of municipal wards, etc based on state/local populations. We as a country could do lot more if we try to extract vital summarized information from the census data in greater detail. Do we have systems in place to do that? I have no idea but I hope that we will have a better system to access the 2010 Census data.

Where does government use this data?

- Helps in drawing legislative and ward boundaries

- It uses to ensure that people and businesses are in compliance with government policies, voting rights, etc.

- To identify economic wellbeing of individual and his/her family as well as for different race, ethnic and regional populations.

- Assisting families of low-income and allocating funds for food programs, housing assistance, job training, free education and other social services for women and children.

-Assisting elderly, disabled and veterans. Helping disabled with vocational trainings and building veteran hospitals and senior citizen dwellings.

- Allocating funds for various vocational and adult education programs

- Help in predicting transportation needs during disaster recovery and contingency planning. If people are to be displaced, where they would be taken to and how quickly?

- Idenfying farming needs, agri to non-agri land ratio, cultivable land, distance traveled by job seekers from their perm. dwellings,etc

- Identify need for new parks, hospitals, highways, public transportation, libraries, police/fire protection, schools and universities and of what types

- Help energy companies analyze energy consumption and identify conservation opportunities and forecast energy needs.


Where can businesses use this data?

Census is a Marketing Data Superwarehouse and it must be made available to people who want to do business in Gujarat.

Accurate census data on where people of different ages live helps businesses of all kinds to develop and market their products e.g need for amusement parks, baby diapers, where to build apartments, commercial complexes and of what sizes, producing consumer durables, furnitures, etc. What language is spoken at home can also help in idenfying where to advertise for these products i.e fine-tune neighbourhood productions for radio/TV advertising. Helps in demand forecasting for new facilities and networks -by Telecom and Utilities firms and there are many other uses.

Gujarat and many states tend to overcount rich and wealthy and undercount backward, disabled communities. Even in recent census data, there has not been follow-ups with many backward communities while if you are staying in decent locality or are from high class family, you would have got multiple phone calls/visits by Census team-mates.

Let us hope that Government opens up its rigidness and provide moderated access of non-personal data to wider audience FREE OF COST- not just government departments but also to businesses, individuals, researchers and social organizations.Efforts must be made to tie this Census data with UID and CIBIL apps where one can append demographic data to customer files and supply direct marketing lists and services.

Poll Question:

Which is the main reason we do not have access to quality census data?

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