India explores possibilities for digital municipal disclosures
In a talk at last week’s XBRL Asia Round Table in Mumbai, Srikanth Viswanathan, the CEO of the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, outlined the vital role that data about municipalities plays in the next steps for key infrastructure development in India. Through its cityfinance.in initiative, the not-for-profit is facilitating the central collection of a range of financial information from nearly 5000 cities, towns and municipalities across India. This data, in part, underpins the provision of central grants and loans to local communities but its collection is by no means simple.
Using a variety of PDF, images and spreadsheet sources, the collection of information is constrained by the need to scan, OCR, rekey and re-orient data from as many as 100 different state-based disclosure requirements. While municipal bonds are still in their infancy in India, there is need for more than USD100 billion in infrastructure investment each year through to 2030. Attracting, supporting and prioritising these investments is a complex undertaking. Simplifying and improving data flows and data quality in civic financial disclosures is a high priority for Janaagraha and the Indian government. Mr Viswanathan’s question is deceptively simple: how can the XBRL standard best be leveraged to help enhance decision making in this sphere?