The COVID-19 pandemic is a global inflection point in policymaking. It presents national and local governments with complex policy challenges on a scale rarely seen before. How can overburdened healthcare systems be upgraded in a way that best feeds into the public health ecosystem? How can cities be made resilient against crises that turn their strengths — density of population, reliance on public transport systems, migrant labour forces — against them? What is the right balance between public health concerns and privacy when it comes to healthcare data and digital surveillance?

 

Each of these and several other problems would be difficult challenges requiring nuanced, careful solutions at the best of times. Now, policymakers in India and elsewhere must confront them simultaneously, with each affecting the others and a severe economic shock further complicating matters. This makes finding the right answers orders of magnitude more difficult. Paradoxically, the pandemic also presents an opportunity. The immense pressure it has placed on the policymaking process and public service delivery creates incentives for drastically overhauling the state's capacity to formulate complex policies and implement them effectively.

 

IDFC Institute is working on several fronts — from public health capacity and public service delivery to economic analysis and data governance — to feed into this paradigm shift. Our work has developed in keeping with our view that the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a crisis with specific consequences but a brutal reminder of policy challenges that will remain after the vaccines that are now on the horizon have been deployed. Thus, in the early days of the pandemic, we documented policymaking successes within and without India to inform response strategies at various levels of government, worked on contact tracing solutions and an adaptive control approach to lockdowns, and drafted rapid response economic measures. In the medium term, we have worked on behavioural communications and vaccine deployment strategies. In the long term, we will continue to address policy challenges in various areas — from urban governance and public health to data governance — by drawing upon learnings from the pandemic.

 

In all of this, we have supported governments in India at every level that have worked ferociously despite time and resource constraints to respond to the pandemic. We have also collaborated with a host of academics and policy practitioners within India and globally who have been generous with their time and expertise — and we will continue to draw upon their expertise as we address the changed policy landscape COVID-19 leaves behind.

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