With an aim to improve the quality of health and demographic data in the country, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Wednesday launched an integrated national-level platform that can help close the knowledge gap and boost policy formulations.
The National Data Quality Forum (NDQF) will integrate learnings from scientific and evidence-based initiatives and guide actions through periodic workshops and conferences, the ICMR said.
The NDQF is launched in collaboration between the government research body”s National Institute for Medical Statistics and global nonprofit organisation Population Council, it said.
The activities of the multi-stakeholder platform will gear towards establishing protocols and good practices when dealing with data collection, storage, use and dissemination, which can be applied to health and demographic data as well as replicated across industries and sectors, the the apex medical research body said.
ICMR Director M Vishnu Vardhana Rao noted that India has a rich resource of data on its population, health status and demographic behaviour.
“India is a data-rich country. We have so many data systems available of the magnitude of 1.3 billion people. We want to put it in one place,” Rao said, adding that were different types of challenges in doing so.
This wealth of data is translated into insights and eventually into policy through a layered process involving human and technological inputs at every stage, the official said.
Rao, however, noted that these data often suffer from some common challenges related to human and technological factors, affecting its quality.
The NDQF hopes to bring together relevant stakeholders, subject matter experts, industry leaders, decision makers, and data scientists and analysts on a common platform to improve the quality of data that feeds into evidence-based decision making.
According to the ICMR, this platform would be guided by the direction provided by a high-level steering committee and operationalised with the help of a technical expert advisory group.
“We are delighted to launch the National Data Quality Forum and embark upon a fruitful collaboration to generate meaningful dialogue around the improvement of data quality in general, and for health and medical research in particular,” Balram Bhargava, director general, ICMR, said in a statement.
The World Health Organization (WHO) representative to India, Henk Bekedem, said the biggest challenge to data collection was inaccurate reporting and lack of electronic data.
Bekedem hopes that the WHO can form a meaningful knowledge alliance with the ICMR on this project for shared learning.
K S James, the director of the Mumbai-based International Institute for Population Sciences, said challenges related to data quality needed to be addressed at multiple levels.
Niti Aayog member Vinod K Paul said data is gold, and machine learning and artificial intelligence can play a big role in data collection and data standardisation.
India has a lot to offer when it comes to data from a global perspective, Paul said.
Shekhar Shah, director general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, said: “NCAER is committed to the improvement of data quality in India by fostering an innovation-driven culture of data collection through its activities and partnerships.” SAR/PLB HMB – Outlook