The DELTA program by Tata Trusts uses data and technology to drive rural development

DELTA is a system for collecting information from villages, government departments, as well as providing analysis of the collected information.


In October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ‘Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna’, that translates to ‘Parliamentarian Model Village Scheme.’ The scheme requires every Member of Parliament (MP) to develop villages in their constituencies as models for others to follow. One such village was to be developed by 2016, with two others to follow by 2019, along the guidelines formulated by the Department of Development. The PM had said "If we have to build the nation we have to start from the villages. If every MP transforms villages in his/her constituency into model villages, large number of villages in the country would have seen holistic development."

The DELTA program by Tata Trusts uses data and technology to drive rural development

The Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna led to the creation of Data, Evaluation, Learning, Technology and Analysis (DELTA), a program by Tata Trusts that enables organisations to use data and technology to drive development. DELTA is a system for collecting information from the villages, the government departments, as well as providing analysis of the collected information and presenting it in a format that can be used to optimise resources, prioritise activities and track the progress of the development. There are versions of the program in place depending on the geographic location, the facilitating agencies, and the specific development requirements – such as education, nutrition or sanitation.

One of the biggest parts of the program was on ground data collection on a scale never before seen in India. Along with technology partners, Tata Trusts trained over 1,400 youth from the villages to conduct surveys of households, Aanganwadis, schools, public health facilities and village level facilities. With the tablet based survey, over 300 data points of 9.9 lakh households, covering 17 lakh people from 264 panchayats in 1,246 villages were collected.

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The program realises the potential of data and technology to revolutionise decision making. Tata Trusts has taken up the agenda of “data-driven governance,” to improve, inform and impact policy making. The idea is to play a crucial role in enhancing the data capabilities of the government, and to create a “culture of data”, which will enable accountable governance.

The program has been supported by the government at various levels, right down from the ministry to the collector to the block development officer. Dashboards have been developed to track the data, and the collected information is available to district and block level co-ordination committees. These dashboards can be deployed to track progress in healthcare, education, nutrition, sanitation or infrastructure according to the needs of the particular government departments. Apart from the government Tata Trusts also tied up with two Delhi based technical partners, Swaniti and SocialCops.

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Swaniti uses a custom program known as Massive Organized Volunteer Exercise Data (MOVED), and Data Generating Research and Administrative Mechanism (DATAGRAM) to track and maintain the data. There are multiple types of user input supported by the NoSQL database, and realtime synchronisation of inputs is possible. Once the data is received by the back end the field data is verified every day. This core data is used to generate multiple reports based on the needs of the local agencies. The data can be used for development plans on various levels. For example, the reporting tool allows pulling of data related to a single village, or the data from the panchayat or block level can be pulled for a regional development plan.

SocialCops has developed the mobile applications to allow for the collection of the data and churning it into useful insights. An application by SocialCops allows for creating smartphone surveys, that can be used by volunteers to collect information from remote and rural areas using a low cost Android smartphone. The insights platform allows for searching through massive amounts of data and visualisation of the data for analysis.

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A resource group of the district administration, local NGOs, elected representatives and technology agencies was formed for the project. Local youth were trained to carry out a detailed survey, similar to the National census. The surveys allowed for more reliable and accurate data that formed the basis of development plans. As the National census is conducted only every 10 years, any development plans are typically based on guesswork or projections. The house to house surveys were conducted using Android tablets. There were systems in place to track the implementation and progress of the plan to enhance the credibility of the plans.

The DELTA project has initially been piloted in four districts, from four corners of the country. The project has initially been demonstrated in Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, Chandrapur district in Maharashtra, Balasore district in Orissa and West Singhbhum district in Jharkand. The plan is to scale the project to other parts of the country, with support from the government.

This article is the second part in a series of articles exploring the initiatives by Tata Trusts to use technologies to drive societal transformation. The previous article in the series covered the DRUV project.

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