Data driven development

>> Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ike Señeres

In business, “market driven” is still a very popular buzzword, but it seems that yet another buzzword, “data driven” could soon overtake it. Just like saying that everything is computer related, it could also be said that everything that is computer related is now data related.
That is actually true, because computerized systems would always generate data one way or the other, including both internet and mobile sources. It is too complicated to talk about the details, but the whole computing world now as it turned out to be is all about the process of collecting data or creating data, putting it into big data collections, and analyzing it, eventually turning it into useful information.
Also in business, it is a widely accepted fact that data is just a tool for management, and therefore, the better the data, the better the management ought to be. Being just a tool, it could be said that management could happen even without data, but its quality would surely suffer.
As I understand it, economic development is a process that needs good management, and so therefore data is also very much needed in economic development. As a matter of fact, it would be best to go towards data driven development, using everything that computer technology could offer, including big data collection and data analytics.
As we all know, data is not only a tool for management, it is also a tool for planning, the later being an essential part of management as well. As it is now however, there seems to be several approaches towards this direction. One approach leans towards the management of development, while the other approach leans towards “development management”. There is however a thin line between the two, somehow akin to the thin line between “public management” and “public administration”. On my part however, I am more inclined towards “development management”, under which I would want to utilize good planning, using computerized tools that would be backed by data.
Just to state the basics, growth can happen without development, because the latter needs planning in order to make it happen. In the case of Local Government Units (LGUs), local development could not happen without a master plan.
As I see it however, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) that is required to be submitted by every municipality is, and should be the starting point of every LGU master plan. For so many years now, all LGUs have been required to submit their own CLUPs but up to now, most of them would still do it in analog form, actually in paper form. Some of them would do it in rather impressive relief maps, but still done in paper nonetheless.
Nowadays, many LGU officials would talk about tax mapping and hazard mapping as if these are two unrelated projects. That may be so in the case of paper maps, but that is not so in the case of digital maps. Most digital maps are made by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
As it was designed, GIS software is capable of producing many kinds of maps, each of which is actually a layer of data over another. That is the reason why I say that tax maps and hazard maps are actually just data layers that are on top of the basic GIS data, only two of the many layers that could be shown. All told, the common denominator in all of these is the big data collection that serves as the foundation.
As I earlier implied, LGU officials could probably succeed in managing the day to day affairs of their jurisdictions even without GIS data. It is however another story when it comes to development planning, because it is not possible to objectively plan for the future if there is no sufficient data that is available from the past and from the present times. It also goes without saying that good development planners should also be good data users, without any exception.
There is absolutely no excuse for any LGU executive not to use data for development planning because if that is really the case, he or she should hire the professionals who could do that for him or her.
Pardon my own bias, but I strongly feel that all local planning in the Philippines should be aligned with the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) at the national level and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the international level.
These three processes at the local, national and international level should be data driven, because that is the only approach that is recognized globally. Even here in the Philippines at the national level, there is already a widespread acceptance for data driven planning.
The day will come soon when politicians who are not development oriented and who are not data driven may soon find themselves driven out by their own voters.
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