A reliable database: For wise decision-making!


Figures are a vital and proven mathematical device that has resounding and far-reaching implications on any system or sphere involving calculations including history, geology, astronomy, archaeology, science, and technology to name a few.
It is extremely important that we have the correct figures and data in all these areas of research because they form the baseline that guides the whole procedure of the research and all inferences are based upon them.
But what happens when the very figures that are supposed to provide a logical baseline for study and decision-making are flawed?
This happened recently with the Annual Health Bulletin 2016 statistics maintained with the health ministry. The figure for Bhutanese suffering from hypertension saw a precipitous decline from 34,941 in 2014 to 6,684 in 2015 which is a drop by five times the original figure. Similarly, the number of patients suffering from diabetes also decreased from 9,976 from 2014 to 3,989 to 2015.
Turns out that the health authorities confirmed the figures were skewed because health centers across the country had compiled the data manually and there were incidences when the data compiled was doubly added to the earlier one.
Seeing that important government decisions such as budget allocation are taken as per given data, it would seem unforgivable on the part of the relevant agencies to think that the 11th Five Year Plan was charted out on the basis of wrong data such as this one. And this is just a single case. So many similar mistakes could have gone undetected!
Plans based on flawed data would result in unfair and disproportionate distribution of government resources impending development, progress and growth where necessary, not to mention waste.
Imagine the extra resources, in retrospect, wrongly set apart to tackle Non-Communicable Diseases would have made a huge difference in another area where it was really required.
Apply this logic to the upcoming housing census at the end of May and imagine the disastrous results of compiling wrong data at such an important national event.
Granted, the authorities concerned would require huge human and technical resources to compile comprehensive and correct data. This would certainly be expensive for the government coffers but when we do the math, the results are simple: nothing beats having a reliable and up-to-date database on which decisions can be based.
The impacts, especially positive can be terrific in scope.
Talking about a database, it is common knowledge that Bhutan as a small country with limited resources has inadequate and obsolete data in many fields.
But maybe what we could at least do is standardize an authority such as the National Statistics Bureau as one authoritative agency to collect, compile, filter, record and maintain data so that in the future, whenever there is need for relevant information, the authority can have access to it at its finger tips.
This would facilitate ease in procuring data and also right to information in its own way. It would also save info-seekers a whole lot of confusion and hassle!
If Bhutan could maintain an all-comprehensive, constantly updated database for all agencies and people, it would go a long way in helping decision-makers weigh the pros and cons of an option, assess and make the best decisions.
After all, a decision is not only about who makes it, but more importantly who all are affected. The consequences of a decision can have ripple effects and should never be made in haste. To this end, a reliable database should be accorded the place of importance it rightly deserves!