From IT for Change's Annual Report for 2013-14
Our work in the area of governance primarily involves mapping the opportunities and challenges for the deepening democracy agenda, within the current techno-mediated governance paradigm. On the one hand, mainstream e-governance policy frameworks tend to 'technicalise' the political, subordinating democratic principles to expert-led planning and decision-making – such as the recent celebration of 'Big Data' for development. On the other, the new possibilities offered by digital technologies, especially around networking and participatory mapping, present an opportunity for creating 'moments of disruption' with regard to communities' relationship to their external social and political environment, that are crucial for deepening democracy.
IT for Change critically analyzes policy frameworks in the area of e-governance, public information systems, decentralisation and community based governance structures. Additionally, through our field centre Prakriye, we focus on building digitally enabled, participatory local governance models, that centre around the divergent and dynamic priorities of local communities, especially marginalised groups.
- 1 Advocacy
- 2 Field Engagement
- 3 Research
- 4 Future Plans
Workshop on 'Technology in governance - An agenda for centralisation, privatisation and depoliticisation?'
IT for Change, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and School for Democracy organised a one-day workshop on 'Technology in governance - An agenda for centralisation, privatisation and depoliticisation?' on the 20th of July 2013 in New Delhi at the India International Centre. The workshop aimed at evolving a socio-political critique of the far-reaching transformations that are being carried out at the heart of the Indian governance system, through the use of ICTs. The workshop was organised at a time when a slew of 'ICTs in governance' proposals had caught the imagination of the public: AADHAR-enabled Direct Beneficiary Transfers, electronic service delivery and centralisation of implementation aspects of governance by setting up apex special purpose 'governance' companies that would work from within concerned departments, but which would be privately owned. Participants, drawn from academia, government, and civil society organisations across the country, felt that this was the commencement of a very useful and necessary dialogue on ICTs, governance and democracy. There was a consensus for the need to place demands before the government for framing a national e-governance policy, that would approach the question of technology in governance from the standpoint of social justice and equity, rather than a narrow, efficiency-centred view-point.
Campaign against the Government of India's proposal to amend the Right to Information Act
IT for Change with CIVIC Bangalore, KRIA Katte, and Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement organised a camapign in August 2013, protesting the proposal of the Central government, to amend the Right to Information Act, with the intention of keeping political parties out of its ambit. This proposed amendment would have challenged the basic principle of the Act which is to maintain transparency and accountability by the government, including the processes of governance which determines functioning of the government.
Our effort, along with that of many other groups affiliated with the RTI movement across the country, met with some success -- the amendment has been kept in abeyance for now.
Inputs to the Framework on Open Source Software Adoption
Our field centre Prakriye focuses on exploring techno-social strategies for enhancing women's collectives' engagement with local governance structures in Mysore district. At present, the field centre utilises community media strategies for enhancing women's collectives' political voice, and for their citizenship education. A network of women-run, ICT-enabled, community information centres have been set up in Hunsur and H.D.Kote blocks of Mysore district with the objective of creating a new public information architecture that by-passes traditional gatekepping by middle-men, by availing of possibilities such as mobile phone-based informational networking and governmental websites. Plans are underway to take forward the work of these centres, in conjunction with the respective Gram Panchayats, by carving out an alternative public informational and data architecture at the community level that utilises ICT possibilities such as bulk Voice SMS for informational outreach, community generated surveys for guiding local planning, and GIS-enabled mapping to facilitate data visualisation for community audit, in order to promote a gender-responsive, accountable governance structure at the local level.
Through Women-gov, a feminist action-research project supported by the International Development Research Centre, Canada (2012-2014), we have focused on exploring the promise of emergent techno-social spaces for reclaiming women's 'active citizenship' as a political idea. The project has utilised the new informational, associational and communicative possibilities opened up by digital technologies,for strengthening marginalised women's engagement with local governance processes, and their claims-making,across three sites in the Global South: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Mysore (India) and Cape Town (South Africa). IT for Change is providing conceptual leadership to this project, and spearheading the India Intervention strategy. The partnering organisations in Brazil and South Africa are Instituto Nupef and the University of the Western Cape, respectively.
We will continue our research and advocacy efforts in the area of promoting 'technology in governance' models that are rooted in the ethos of participatory decision-making, and democraticatisation of data sets, information and knowledge processes. Our field engagement will also be in this direction. In specific, we will continue our efforts towards the development of an alternative model of 'data-centred' governance, in which ICT posibilities such as wiki platforms, GIS, and mobile-based networking will be utilised to create a bottom-up, public information architecture -- a Praja information system.