India’s Ease of Living Index city rankings more about data than performance

  • The Ease of Living Index released on Monday says more about the scarcity of data rather than the poor performance of cities.
  • Some cities scored a zero on certain parameters because there was no data collected at that level, to begin with.
  • Therefore, the data-driven approach of the Ease of Living index is an impetus for accountability and optimal resource allocation.
The most recent addition to the debate of ‘which city is better?’ in India is the Ease of Living Index that was shared by the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. But rather than being strictly about the ease of living, the rankings also highlight the data sufficiency of Indian cities.

A lot of the cities on the list, including the national capital of New Delhi that came in 65th, attained poor scores due to the lack of data.

The lack of data doesn’t necessarily mean the absence thereof, but inefficiencies in the sharing of information. And, neither does it necessarily imply poor performance.

But the shift in policy making to a data-driven approach is a forward-looking, albeit a little late to the party, solution.

Data dive

The index measured the ease of living in different cities along four parameters, namely - governance, social indicators, economic indicators and physical infrastructure. These four parameters are further divided into 78 indicators spread along a 100-point scale.

The list was led by the Maharashtrian cities of Pune, Navi Mumbai and Greater Mumbai while the cities of Patna and Rampur were at the bottom.

The low scores of a lot of cities, especially ones that attained a zero in certain categories, doesn’t mean that those services are absent from the city. A score of zero more likely implies that the respective authorities didn’t provide the data that was required.

In certain cases, there was no data to pass on because cities themselves are starved of data. For instance, public authorities don’t always have the data from private hospitals.

Rather than look at this year’s list as an indicator of ‘which city is better?’, it should be looked at as an accountability reminder to cities. It’s only through data collection and analysis that resource allocation can be optimised.

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