Further to my earlier blogs on Metrics, here is a real-life example of Metrics.

Our Government’s endeavor is to bring in more transparency and make things accountable (and of course, measurable). Right To Information Act 2005 is one such tool through which citizens can seek information on various aspects of governance.

Recently, just ahead of the Republic Day the Government of India announced list of this year’s Padma awardees and caused some debate. The list contains mix of many “unsung heroes” as well as politicians such as Sharad Pawar!

However, before the announcement the Government had invited nominations from Citizens in addition to the authorities who can nominate people for Padma awards (authorities include – Chief Ministers and Cabinet Ministers and such officials).

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I am not sure since when the process of getting nominations from citizens started but it must be a recent phenomenon. And Government and government supporters take pride in starting such initiative.

NDTV reported that Home Ministry received 5000+ nominations this year through the portal.

I had a stimulating debate with one of staunch supporters of Government who claimed that the initiative to invite nominations from Citizens is a great reform and shows that Government is transparent.

I disagreed. My argument was that the Government initiative for online nominations from Citizens is at best an example of “process automation”. Getting 5000 nominations doesn’t imply anything about the transparency or fairness of selection; or the process resulting in awarding Padma Sri to “many unsung heroes”.

Let’s put it in terms of Metric.

My point is that “number of online nominations” could be a metric for measuring effectiveness of “process automation”. Number of nominations is NOT a metric for fairness of selection process or identifying “unsung heroes” who deserve the award.

The online nomination process had two categories. Nomination by Authorities (Chief Ministers of states, Cabinet Ministers, Governors and such key government officials), and nomination by Citizens.

The nomination process required a Registered User (identified by mobile number and other details) to nominate a person for Padma award and give 800 words write-up justifying the nomination. The NDTV report said that the Government received 5000 such nominations – from Authorities and Citizens.

To make my point I plan to file an RTI query to get following information:

  1. How many nominations were received from Citizens and how many were received from Authority

This would give us the break-up of 5000+ nominations

 

  1. How many of the people nominated “exclusively” by Citizens finally got Padma awards.

This would tell us how many people “exclusively” nominated by Citizens got the award. i.e. the people who were not nominated by “authorities” but were nominated by “citizens”

 

  1. How many people distinct nominations were submitted by Citizens. And list of top three nominations

This would tell us how many “different” nominations Citizens came up with. i.e. how broad the suggestions were. It may happen that all citizens unanimously nominated only 1 person (extreme case), or it could be possible that each citizen nominated a unique person (the other extreme).

I think having such Metrics would tell us whether the Government is really “considering” Citizen’s suggestions or not. In absence of such Metrics and going simply by the number of online nominations received, the process is reduced to nothing more than a reality show voting game – similar to Indian Idol or Big Boss. And we really don’t know if the voters’ choice really ends up being winner of Indian Idol or Big Boss.

Can you suggest more such Metrics which would determine the “effectiveness” of process of getting citizens to participate in choosing Padma awardees?

 

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