USAID, Mozilla, Aapti Institute announce Working Groups to Strengthen Data Ecosystems in Indian Schools

By Aapti Institute,
September 14th, 2023

Publication : Blog
Themes : Community RightsDigital Rights

USAID, Mozilla, Aapti Institute announce Working Groups to Strengthen Data Ecosystems in Indian Schools

Technology has added a new layer to education making it more engaging, accessible, and equitable, this transformation should be supported by responsible data practices. However, there exists a lack of comprehensive understanding among key stakeholders- students, teachers, school administrators, and government officials- about the intricacies of data collection and analysis. This deficiency in data literacy can hinder the ability to harness the full potential of data, thereby impeding progress. The Strengthening Data Ecosystem (SDE) initiative is aimed at addressing data governance challenges, promoting responsible data usage, and combatting potential misuse of student data within Indian schools. 

Through the SDE initiative, Aapti Institute and the Mozilla Foundation with support from USAID, aim to address two pillars of data governance in Indian education: i) Creating knowledge products and interactive forums that enable decision makers (school administrators, government officials, teachers, etc.) to have fluency in data governance and data practices that serve their students, and ii) Creating transparency around what data is being collected, how it is being used and how to object to any misuse so that those impacted by data-driven based decisions (students, parents, teachers, and student advocacy groups) can make informed choices.

Furthermore, the initiative also creates a space for innovative ideas and information resources ranging from policy frameworks, comics, dashboards, and gamified platforms which are open to experimentation, iteration, and can be implemented at scale. 

The SDE initiative includes five working groups, carefully chosen through a competitive application process based on a diverse set of criteria. In order to broaden the scope of impact and ensure a multiplicity of voices, participants are from across India, are engaged with school communities ranging from well-resourced private schools in Delhi to government run schools in remote corners of Kerala, and have a variety of skill-sets. Each of these groups is strategically positioned to engage with a specific local school community and is committed to producing tools that can empower educational stakeholders in their effective use of data. 

This diverse group of artists, researchers, policy makers, designers, school teachers and coders have been selected to envision new ways to govern data in Indian schools. Aapti provides the groups with an intellectual and creative home where they can play with their ideas and products, grow as a community and shape the discourse on data governance in India and globally. The work of the groups will culminate in a week-long, in-person summit in Delhi.

Working Group Profiles

I. Towards Enhancing Data Utility and Accessibility for Schools

Nivedita Krishna is the founder director at Pacta and has over fifteen years of experience as a legal advisor for the public sector and non-profits, has worked on law and policy initiatives to strengthen India’s public education system, and is a technology policy consultant. Tejaswini Vavilala co-leads the Sphoorti Foundation, which aims to transform the lives of underprivileged children by providing them with education, healthcare, and other necessities. She brings to the table a decade-long experience in project management and strategizing. Anagha Sasidharan is a Law and Policy Associate at Pacta and has worked on technology-policy initiatives towards devising good governance models and legal frameworks for just advancement of technology. 

Project Outputs

A publicly accessible Report that informs advocacy for data as a tool for empowerment.  The Report will include the findings of the project on, inter alia:

  • Mapping data collected by schools for various purposes – including both educational and non-educational Insights – to strengthen the utility of data for the school and for its students as a tool for empowerment (such as school-level dashboards based on available data-) 
  • A framework for scoring  access to and the utility of school datasets (Data Accessibility and Utility Score) as a tool for empowerment  
  • Insights on attitudes, challenges, and vulnerabilities that undermine the quality of data collected from schools   
  • Insights on data collection practices and flagging of harmful practices such as the non-availability of opt-out mechanisms, or non-transparency in purpose  that may limit data collection

II. Understanding data as a tool for empowerment in Indian schools through collaborative and story-based pedagogy

Ajin K Thomas is a researcher, educator, and professional English-Malayalam translator of children’s books. Aju Kurian is a senior product manager with experience designing and building consumer and enterprise platforms and applications. Suhair Killiyath Kuniyil is a researcher focusing on accountability and governance in digital public goods and open data. Yesha Tshering Paul is a lawyer and researcher with experience in public engagement on privacy and data protection, digital identity, and online harms. She led the development of a Decision Guide for Digital Identity which will serve as a template for the proposed decision guide. 

Project Outputs

A gamified learning platform designed to promote responsible data practices in Indian schools. This interactive platform will feature low-fidelity elements to be used by those with minimal internet and technological access. Key components include:

  • User personas with engaging visuals to help students, teachers, and parents understand their roles in the data ecosystem
  • Interactive decision-tree stories that simulate real-life scenarios to encourage informed discussions on responsible data practices
  • Simplified data ecosystem map as a visual representation to help participants understand their position and responsibilities in the data landscape
  • Digital and print-friendly design platform accessible across devices and available in both digital and print formats
  • Comprehensive documentation of processes, methods and insights as a reference for future research

III. Stor(y)ing Data Inaccuracy: Detechnicising our imagination of data production

Joyeeta Dey is a PhD candidate at NIAS, Bengaluru. She studies the digital transformation of education governance, with a historical perspective from the setting up of the National Informatics Centre to the release of the National Education Policy (2020). Nidhi Kinhal has a background in sociology, anthropology and philosophy, and works as a Programs Associate at YLAC, which aims to increase youth civic engagement. Vrinda Bhatia is a PhD candidate and Junior Research Fellow in Educational Studies at JNU, Delhi. She has previously worked as an RA for a psycholinguistics project based out of University of Oslo, which looked at linguistic development of newly-sighted children. They are part of a digital initiative, Aaina (, which communicates educational research on social media using comics. In 2023, they were chosen as one of the winners by the Digital Empowerment Foundation for Social Media for Empowerment award. 

Project Outputs 

  • Comics depicting themes like data collection and uploading practices, imaginations of data and everyday lives of teachers/data collectors
  • Using the photo elicitation method, three comics will be used to structure 5 focus group discussions of 5-8 participants each. Photo-elicitation can help generate discussion , allowing people to open up on s difficult topics – in this case, about challenges with data collection, frustrations with governance structures or data fudging
  • A set of long-form visual narratives centering the lives of teachers – their teaching, other responsibilities, relationships with their institutions and students, and importantly, the way they navigate data collection. The stories will be hosted on a webpage, where clicking on a particular character will reveal a story, and together, would tell the larger story of data inaccuracy 
  • These stories will be a master-resource to anchor discussions with other actors within the education system. At least 2 workshops will be conducted using the narratives, with local education departments, for identifying key action points to make data systems more responsive to teacher concerns and more participatory

IV. Data for Education Systems in India: Design, Processes, and Uses

Subir Shukla, former Educational Quality Advisor to MHRD-GoI has engaged with national and state governments on large-scale implementation of quality improvement efforts across the country. Deepti Srivastava has designed and facilitated large-scale assessments and research. Gurjot Sidhu has been supporting the design and development of state data systems and building the capacity of those involved. Ritwik Shukla has researched on health and education extensively, and worked with state governments to enable policy and decision makers to use their data better. 

Project Outputs

 An interactive website containing Learning Tools that help visitors understand:

  • What a data system for education is, and how it can serve the goals of the education system
  • The principles one should follow while conceptualising a data system
  • Contextualising goals and requirements for data to evaluate progress
  • Examples of what a data system could look like
  • The role that people at various levels can play in using data effectively
  • Demonstrated examples of how to use data to further quality education
  • The potential impact of using data effectively

The website will include examples from current Indian education contexts. For instance, the use of the Unified District Information System for Education (U-DISE).

V. Ed-DataQuality+: Empowering Education Decision-Makers with data quality assessment Framework 

Raghav Sagar holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of London. He brings around nine years of experience working with education interventions and systems in India. Raghav has expertise in creating data-based monitoring systems, field operations, and implementation. He is currently working with the Classroom Instructions and Practice Team at the Central Square Foundation in India. Udit Ranjan holds a master’s degree in Economics and Philosophy from the London School of Economics. He possesses over nine years of experience in evaluating social programs in South Asia. Udit brings expertise in impact evaluation and assessment to the working group. He is currently working with the Evaluation team at the Central Square Foundation in India. Vipin Yadav holds a master’s degree in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore. He has over eight years of experience working with education systems and interventions in multiple countries. Vipin brings expertise in education intervention and evaluation to the working group. He is currently working with the Classroom Instructions and Practice Team at the Central Square Foundation in India.

Project Outputs

  • A contextualised, rubric-based framework for assessing the quality of education data monitoring systems based on the presence of tools, protocols, data systems, and effective utilisation of data for improving outcomes
  • An action study report of the framework pilot
  • A bluebook or best practice document based on the study with an aim to reduce the risk of harm to students and teachers from data that is mismanage or misused or and contribute towards educational outcomes that positively benefit all stakeholders