Remember the dog in the manger story where the dog would sit on the hay and not let anybody use it, inspite of being himself unable to use it. It is something similar with the agencies involved in predicting the monsoon in India. To have an extent of the issue, I was surprised to know that an NGO in Chennai makes use of an US website to know about the weather for the purpose of informing fishermen before they venture onto the seas. Farmers depend more on the information distribution by private agencies (like the ITC e-choupals) for weather rather than government agencies. Why not government agencies? Because one, that information does not simply come out in time even if it is compiled; two, the information is not packaged succintly and conveniently according to the needs of the people (farmers, fishermen and many others for whom weather information is very important).

Why does this happen?

Because the agencies involved have no obligation to provide that information. Apparently, they can provide only a part of the info to private agencies for security reasons (this implies that some of the weather images are fuzzied before being handed over to the private agencies). This information is courtesy Jaganath Sankaran who is working on a project comparing weather information generation and communication by govt/pvt agencies. Research in the US and UK showed that the government stands to gain more if the weather info is given out freely and with minimum security context, as that would lead to better productivity and more taxes, as compared to high-priced (by the govt) weather information.

One of the most unrecognised and under-estimated problems of a government is the lack of a mechanism of collection of information in understanding the problem and not having the incentives to act according to the information. To put it in context, there are no department records of either pass percentages or attendance records in Delhi, there are many others lacking, and with this information handicap they go on to design solutions (the byword is schemes) for the problem. Will they work?

Read this insightful analysis in the Business Standard on why the govt-based weather prediction agencies should make their information public. For the academically inclined read The Use of Knowledge in Society by Nobel Laureate Hayek to understand information and its implications for public governance. On the same note, read The Wisdom of the Crowds to understand the best circumstances suitable for harnessing this phenomenon.

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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.

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Naveen Mandava

Naveen is Co-Founder at XamCheck, an organization that partners with schools, supporting them in processes they follow, with learning materials and processes that are all crafted to work together as an interconnected system to drive learning. He is a Doctoral Fellow from RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, United States of America. He has worked extensively on assessment based decision support for governments, non-profit organizations and schools chains in India and the USA for over 10 years. He has been a Lead Consultant with the World Bank’s Innovations for Poverty Action Consortium, a Policy Analyst with RAND Corporation and a Research Manager at Centre for Civil Society.