Private and public entities have taken a number of initiatives to collect information on Covid-19, but they have not taken proper steps to find out the pandemic's impact on economic and social indicators. This yielded an incomplete picture of the pandemic shocks, said researchers.
They also pointed out that the collected data were not institutionalised due to a lack of manpower and technology.
The collected statistics have not been translated into policy responses by the government, said the experts at a virtual dialogue titled "Data-driven Policy Making During the Pandemic: Taking the Experience Forward," organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on Thursday.
Public and private researchers who participated in the conference highlighted how most of the recent information came from the user-end data such as from telecoms or vaccine registration.
This gave a one-sided perspective to the situation as no information was available on those who had not registered or did not use mobile phones, said the experts.
Furthermore, the researchers pointed out that most of the available data are not being used for research or policy-making at either government or at private levels.
The participants at the event said the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic fallouts have exponentially increased the demand for reliable data from healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public at large.
Indeed, data deficits are inhibiting the government from pursuing necessary and effective public policy actions, including vaccination drives, to combat the scourge.
Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, distinguished fellow of the CPD, said, "The demand for credible real-time data has increased manifold during the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has improved awareness regarding the need for data and its use for decision making."
Muntaseer Kamal, senior research associate of the CPD, presented the keynote at the event. He said the future course of actions would critically hinge on issues like the system-wide adaptation of the successful initiatives and financial and organisational sustainability.
The keynote called for the creation of a "knowledge hub" containing all relevant data, statistics, research and analysis contributed by both government and non-government.
Dr Shahnaz Arefin, secretary of Statistics and Informatics Division, said data interoperability is important and data should be accessible to all relevant stakeholders to avoid duplication. She recommended a multi-stakeholder approach of data collection and coordination.
Swiss Ambassador to Bangladesh Nathalie Chuard said her country is supporting evidence-based research in order to complement the sustainable development goal attainment process of Bangladesh.
She said, "The global partnership initiatives are also emphasising data issues at the national level. In this spirit, Switzerland will also continue to support the data ecosystem in Bangladesh as part of their country strategy."
Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow of the CPD, said cross-border information sharing is also relevant in the context of pandemic response as monitoring mobility of travelers has become critical.
Anir Chowdhury, programme advisor at Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme said, "The NID is the single thread that binds many data platforms together, but it is not enough to cover people aged under 18 and also the Rohingya community."
He proposed a unique ID combining the NID, birth certificate, and other relevant information sources under the guidance of the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics to mitigate the issue.
Dr AM Zakir Hussain, working group member of Bangladesh Health Watch, said, "Unless the government fixes a target, nobody will know how much and what type of data are required and will not be able estimate the vaccine count."
"There are also concerns regarding the use of data in vaccine procurement and management and stakeholder engagement," he added.
Mr Mohammad Tajul Islam, director general of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), said the BBS has conducted two nationwide telephonic surveys. The first one was the perception survey on livelihood and the second one is the transmission rate assessment survey focusing on Covid-19 transmission and health concerns estimating on district level.
The findings of the surveys helped the government to take new initiatives to formulate and update strategies and policies.
The BBS has also conducted a rapid survey on poverty assessment for providing policy support to the government regarding poverty and employment.
The current government always focuses on the data driven decision making and the BBS is playing the vital role in the evidence based planning, he said.
Data analytics is equally important as data availability, especially for policymakers, said Dr Morseda Chowdhury, DIRECTOR of Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP) at Brac.
She said, "Analyses should be done at the repository level, and a unique ID is necessary not only for health issues but also for social security and other purposes."
Dr Rumana Huque, professor at Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, proposed a steering committee to coordinate data initiatives at the national level. She said, real-time data, regular data and reliable data have become a necessity now.