Focus on data collection, Surveys & Pre-testing

Table of Contents

Context
With an objective to review the existing data framework and issues related to all surveys, the government has gave approvals to form the Standing Committee on Statistics (SCoS) which has mandated to provide guidance to conduct pilot surveys/ pre-testing, before finalising schedules for data collection.
About the orders:
  • The committee is chaired by Chairman of the National Statistical Commission.
  • The functions of the committee defined are:
  • To review the extant framework and to address the issues raised from time to time on the subject/ results/ methodology, etc. related to all surveys as brought before the SCoS by MoSPI;
  • To advise on survey methodology including sampling frame, sampling design, survey instruments, etc. and;
  • To finalise tabulation plan of surveys; finalisation of survey results.
  • The committee’s function is to design all data collection, data production efforts.
  • It will also provide guidance for studying and exploring the availability of administrative statistics relating to surveys/statistics and provide guidance to study/identify data gaps/additional data requirements, if any, for surveys/statistics and suggest appropriate strategies for improvement.
  • Wherever participation from states will be there, the committee can also provide technical guidance to the central and state-level agencies for the surveys.
As of now, the SCoS has 14 members, out of which there are four non-official members, nine official members and a member secretary.  The total number of members in the committee can be 16.
Why survey data is important?
  • Surveys provide a systematic approach to data collection, enabling researchers to analyze and interpret findings.
  • This method is crucial in various fields, including social sciences, market research, and public opinion studies.
Procedure of Survey and data Collection in India:
  • Questionnaire method: The primary tool of Census or survey operations is the ‘questionnaire’ that is developed over the years, taking into account the changing needs of the country.
  • It is a list of questions that helps the government collect all the necessary details required about citizens.
  • The questions enhance the credibility & quality of data if various dimensions of socio-economic issues are well incorporated in the questionnaire.
For Example: The Census-2021 exercise would be conducted in two rounds:
  • Household Schedule: The first round will be conducted in 2020, wherein the enumerators would go on a house-to-house basis to record amenities in each household.
  • The second round– ‘Headcount’ would be carried out in early 2021 approximately 6 months after the first round.
Associated Challenges:
  • Errors: There are two types of error during statistical exercise; Content error, and Coverage error which need to be minimised.
    • People should not be considered as a mere headcount but as citizens having certain basic rights. Therefore, accurate data collection with minimal exclusion should be focused upon.
  • Furnishing of false information: Due to fear of losing intended benefits of various schemes (or fear of losing citizenship this time) and lack of education, people fabricate and tend to provide false information. For example, people had apprehensions about the data collection of children not going to school and many-a-times they did not answer the survey questions.
  • In this regard, the Kerala CM urged the people to acknowledge true information and take the Census exercise seriously.
  • Associated Costs: Huge expenditure (thousands of crores) is incurred by the government in conducting this exercise.
  • Security: The move towards digital mode of collecting the data is a step forward to speed up the process of analysis.
    • However, the security of the data being collected (especially on the application) and adequate backup mechanism for such data has to be looked into.
  • The mistrust and fear of misuse of data need to be minimized and mitigated.
  • Abuse of Data: The availability of data with regional authorities has the potential for abuse of such data, as the concerned authority has access to everything about a particular family (ownership, caste, financial aspects, occupation, lifestyle, etc.).
  • Lack of community participation and inadequate training of enumerators to collect the precise and accurate data acts as a big challenge in conducting the Census exercise.

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