The use of data by government actors in Nepal to solve development problems

by Louisa Dennison


Among others, government officials, civil society advocates, data intermediaries, private businesses, researchers and donors all play important roles in a country’s development data ecosystem.

The ability of national and local government actors in developing countries like Nepal to produce and use relevant, timely and disaggregated data is critical to development success and sustainability. For international actors to make a valuable contribution to revolutionising the production, sharing and use of data for development, they must be informed by the needs and experiences of these national and local government actors. Only by gaining a comprehensive understanding of people’s lived experiences can the global efforts around the data revolution improve the reality for decision makers working at the national and local level.

“Accurate and complete data is required to reach every child; however, poor data has meant that many children are still vulnerable to preventable diseases” Mukunda Gautam, Chief of Immunization at the Child Health Division in Nepal’s Department of Health Services

To ensure that global efforts respond to local needs in Nepal, Development Initiatives has been working to better understand the data needs, challenges and impact of those making development decisions at the local level. To build an evidence base and highlight important lessons, we have gathered personal stories of data use and developed a series of short case studies.

By amplifying the voices of those whom the data revolution seeks to support, we hope to inform the wider debate on how development data can have optimum impact on the ground.

How is data being used in Nepal?

Whether for forecasting medical supplies, identifying at-risk populations, guiding health policy, reducing flood impacts or informing food security measures, the demand for data that can support better informed decision making in Nepal is strong. Indeed, our case studies show how local development actors use data to:

“We need a large variety of data for analysing the various dimensions of food security across the country and to ensure we keep poverty at bay” Santosh Raj Paudel, Senior Agri-Economist at the Department of Agriculture in Nepal

What data challenges exist?

Nepal’s development actors face a wide range of challenges when trying to access and use data. These include: the limited availability of disaggregated and joined-up data, as well as up-to-date data, in machine-readable formats; the lack of analysis skills to support the use of data; the prevalence of paper-based records; and poor internet connectivity.

What can we learn from data use in Nepal?

Despite the challenges faced, data has been used by local actors to great effect. For example, it has helped to improve Nepal’s production of crops and the coverage of immunisation programmes,  reduce nutrition inequalities, enable early flood warnings and ensure the availability of medicines in areas of need. This demonstrates just how important data is for supporting effective development at the local level.

And by understanding the data needs of – and challenges faced by – local development actors, international actors who play a role in the data revolution will be better able to develop context-sensitive approaches that support inclusive data production and use ecosystems at local, national and sectoral levels.

Thank you to all the organisations and individuals who have shared their stories with us and helped us to develop this series of short case studies.

These case studies build upon our previous series of profiles detailing data use by local actors in developing countries.