In our blogpost with Citra Social Innovation Lab, we explore the role digital and data can play in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of social safety nets (social assistance) in Sri Lanka.
The benefits of delivery of benefits via bank accounts are clear and the government has indicated it will move towards this system. This is a step in the right direction. Officials tasked with collecting data to correctly identify those in need of assistance (prior to delivering assistance via the new system), had refused to do so unless they, who collect the data, and citizens, who provide the data, will not be held liable for providing falsified information. As such, they asked for Sections 20 and 21 of the Welfare Benefits Act No. 24 of 2002 to be amended.
Consequently, the process of verifying beneficiaries has slowed. Such instances make the case for exploring digitalisation of these processes even stronger. If digitalised datasets could be fed into an integrated welfare management system, the reliance on manual data collection would reduce, allowing for more cost effective, efficient data verification.
But this alone will not be sufficient. Digitalised datastreams need to be available, accessible and regularly updated. There are also many other unknowns. We, for example, still need to identify whether the indicators being used will correctly identify those in need of various forms of assistance. These questions need to be answered through rigorous research, in a measured, evidence-based manner.LIRNEasia is hoping to answer these questions (and more) through our ongoing research including a 10,000 sample nationally representative survey, and qualitative research from 12 districts) in the coming months.
Image source: Citra Social Innovation Labs & LIRNEasia