BACKGROUND AND INTRODUCTION
We are addressing the challenge of effectively monitoring the progress of large scale rural development initiatives, as well as to evaluate outcomes. This challenge is especially apparent in developing countries where government institutions may benefit from support.
In this example, we look at the Indian Government’s $20 billion a year National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA). This program aims to provide 100 days of assured employment per year to unemployed people in rural areas while building up rural infrastructure. NREGA consists of millions of small projects like irrigation facilities, flood defences and reservoirs, all chosen by thousands of local authorities.
In cases like these, it might not be sufficient to rely on conventional monitoring or feedback mechanisms which consist of government employees filling in survey forms and a network of domestic and international NGOs.
How can we give people more confidence in these types of schemes? Specifically, if money is being spent wisely and measurable results produced?
We propose to augment the existing monitoring methods with an automated solution that will combine information published by the government with satellite data to assist in evaluating the progress and outcomes of each individual project.
The starting point of our automated solution will be the government database. In case of NREGA, each individual project has a location, type, unique identifier and dates for starting and completion.
Pertinent satellite data from the Copernicus constellation is processed to evaluate each of these individual projects based on certain heuristics. For irrigation and drainage facilities, we use past and current NDVI* & soil moisture indices for that area. Similarly, surface water area based on SAR** readings is used for reservoir projects. Additional evaluation techniques can be developed for other project types. Generating all this data is not only useful for assessing these projects directly but also leaves behind an audit trail for future reference.
On a local level, this indicates the efficacy of individual projects while also highlighting wider regions of concern where planners, auditors and NGOs can better focus their activities. Globally, this provides an effective means of tackling international development issues. Further applications of the same framework include monitoring of deforestation in tropical rainforests, illegal construction in protected areas and unlawful mining.
Satellite data from https://scihub.copernicus.eu/
NREGA data from http://bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in/governance/mgnrega
*NDVI = Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (measure of the type of vegetation)**SAR = Synthetic Aperture Radar
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