The power of granular data systems
By Will Anderson & Jonny Barty
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How granular data monitoring systems provide a platform for better decision making.

Many governments make decisions based on poor-quality evidence

Government officials frequently make important decisions, however, many lack the data to ground these decisions in evidence.


Digital data systems are cheaper, faster and more accurate than traditional methods

Recent advances in technology make digital data and monitoring systems an obvious choice for governments. Falling technology costs make these relatively inexpensive to rollout, particularly when the cost is compared to the cost of the service being monitored (or the cost of that service being provided poorly). 

Not only are digital systems cheaper, the data the collect is typically more reliable, and they can be updated more easily. For instance, our latest systems can be updated whenever users have an internet connection

Digital data systems have contributed to rapid transformations

A number of countries have launched digital data systems which give officials and managers close to real-time insight into their systems.

For instance, in Peru, a team of independent monitors visits a large sample of schools each month to collect data on basic inputs such as infrastructure and student and faculty attendance, which was made publicly available online. As a result, the system has been able to make substantial improvements. For instance, headteacher attendance increased from 85% to 95% in less than two years.


(Semáforo Escuela monitoring system's monthly report displaying student attendance across Peru) 

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The power of granular data systems

Granular data systems provide officials with the insights they need to make better decisions which will improve the livelihood and wellbeing of their constituents.

Granular data systems provide insight into:

  1. Cause and effect: granular data allows officials to see the impact of events in the system. This allows officials to test new programmes and initiatives, quickly and accurately understand their impact, and decide whether to carry on, modify the strategy, or stop.

  2. Bright spots: most systems have areas of high performance somewhere, the challenge is finding and understanding them. Granular data systems allow officials to identify these areas. Once identified, officials can learn from them, and spread the best practices to other parts of the system.

  3. Poor performance: most systems have areas which are yet to achieve their full potential. Granular data systems allow officials to identify these challenge areas. Once identified, support can be targeted to understand and address the challenges.

About the Author

Will Anderson is the lead researcher for public-sector projects at Acasus. Jonny Barty is a Senior Associate who applies his experience in strategy and business consulting to deliver public health and education reforms.

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