Raman and Bawa SIRCA Report, May 2011

Citizens Participation and Technology Interventions in Government Programmes

The Case of Nemmadi Kendras in Bangalore
By
Bhuvaneswari Raman and Zainab Bawa

May 2011

Abstract

This research examined the relationship between the concepts of participation, communities and technology in the context of a e-governance programme in India. It explored the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in governance drawing on the case of Nemmadi Kendras (NKs). NKs are computerized kiosks which were introduced in rural areas of Karnataka, a South Indian state, to provide revenue services and land records to rural citizens. NK programme was introduced by the Government of Karnataka (GoK) to digitize service provision under a public-private partnership arrangement. GoK argued that the introduction of digital technology as an interface between the state and citizens would contribute towards good governance in terms of enhancing the efficiency, transparency and accountability. In this light, we have examined the manner in which the introduction of technological interface, namely NKs, has influenced citizen’s engagement with the state. Drawing on the social shaping of technology perspectives, our findings point towards two issues: first, introduction of information technologies is only one aspect of the overall process change that is introduced for governance of land and welfare services in rural areas. Hence, we argue that a thorough analysis of the impact of information technologies in the realm of governance necessitates paying attention to the larger processes within which the technology is introduced and embedded. Second, Social relations including the influence
of local politics, continues to determine access to revenue services and land records. Here, we suggest that the introduction of information technologies in a fraught and contested context adds more layers (in terms of bureaucracy and middlemen) which rural citizens have to navigate before they can actually attain the welfare services. We also discuss social factors relating to concerning costs, scale social relations influence and decisions on adopting ICTs and the design of databases and their role in management of land information.

The full report in pdf

See also:
A link to the journal paper which Bhuvaneswari Raman and Zainab Bawa authored based on this research on the Nemmadi kiosks which have been set up across Karnataka state to deliver land records and rural digital services.

Raman & Bawa Media Asia April 2011 paper

The paper appeared in Media Asia journal [Vol. 38 (1)] in April this year.

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Bhuvaneswari Raman and Zainab Bawa’s report done for SIRCA (sirca.org.sg) project through Servelots.com on Technology, Community, Participation

Note: This report may go through another round of small edits.

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Communities, Technology, and Participation Workshop Summary

More Photos

The March 2011 TGC workshop, Communities, Technology, and Participation addressed some important questions about how we use, develop, implement and evaluate information technologies and their place in our communities. For a full list of speakers, the workshop program is available here.

One of the key themes that emerged from both the introduction and the e-governance panel on the first day of the workshop was the need to question narratives of efficiency and transparency and look closely at how projects actually work in practice. There was considerable debate about the frameworks that we use for understanding and evaluating e-governance projects, including issues around how we see the role of the state and of the private sector. There was also lively debate about whether or not specific e-governance projects, including Bhoomi and Nemmadi have positive impacts on local communities, and marginalised minorities within those communities.

The latter half of the first day took quite a different direction, with speakers addressing diverse issues around how we collate, organise, and represent information. Gautam John covered Akshara’s research into school effectiveness, Thejesh GN spoke on the challenges of using government data effectively, Bill Thies gave an overview of the CGNet Swara project, Gabriel Harp talked about how to use data to spur on social change, Ram Bhatt talked about the importance of maintaining community control of media channels, and Ritajyothi Bandopadhyay examined the politics of archiving.

The second day began with a panel on costs and scale, with each presentation raising new areas of discussion. Aina Dalentoft’s overview of the Swedish government’s work on creating accessible online services started with a line: In Sweden we trust our government which led to discussions on difference between the Swedish and Indian governments and societies. Participants began heated debate around the models and language (commodity software versus premium value software) used in Kiran Jonnalagadda’s talk on different ways of understanding open source software. Finally, Sumandro’s presentation on the challenges of urban design for rapidly-growing cities raised questions about the extent to which physical and online scaling issues are related.

The final panel looked at research methodologies and paradigms. Anja Kovacs and Sky Croeser looked at issues surrounding how and why social movements do and don’t use information technologies, and how researchers can understand these choices. Kavita Philip argued that the perceived gulf between the humanities and the sciences has not always existed, and that researchers in the humanities and sciences will benefit from working together. Finally, Nishant Shah summarised recent work by CIS on ‘digital natives’ and their potential to create social change. After tea, Annapurna Garimella presented her study of blogs by middle class house wives in the US who are blog about Dasara dolls.

This brief overview hardly does justice to the research and arguments presented at Communities, Technology, and Participation, so we are hoping to publish the proceedings of the workshop in coming weeks.

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Communities, Technology and Participation Proceedings

TGC workshops have now been running since 2007. In order to begin gathering the research and conversations that have been emerging around these workshops, we will be publishing the proceedings of the March 2011 Communities, Technology, and Participation Workshop online. Authors writing on communities, technology, and participation who did not attend the workshop are also invited to submit.

We wish that all participants of this workshop are able to submit a paper for the proceedings in two weeks, say by 2nd of April 2011. We hope to bring out the proceedings by the second week of May. We encourage two forms of submission, but will also accept submissions in other forms:

Papers should be between 4,000 and 6,000 words long or be in mixed media form. Papers will be peer reviewed by both researchers and practitioners involved in TGC issues, and might undergo a collaborative editing process before being published.

Posts should be under 1,000 words and be written in accessible language, using hyperlinks to provide supporting evidence and further information. Posts may undergo an editing process too.


Please direct questions and submissions to tgc at servelots.com.

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Communities, Technology, and Participation Workshop

The next TGC workshop will be held on March 18th and 19th at 1 Shanti Rd, Bengaluru.

The workshop continues TGC’s series of discussions about technology and society, with an emphasis on encouraging conversations between programmers, computer scientists, social scientists and practitioners.

This will follow on from recently concluded research on “communities, technology and participation”, which explored issues concerning opportunities and challenges in digitising public and government data, costs and scale of implementing technologies, reconfiguration of state-citizen relationships through e-governance and research methods and paradigms emerging from societal and technological standpoints.

TGC: Communities, Technology, and Participation will open up some of the discussions we have had, allowing participants to engage with and contribute to research on issues and questions that are emerging in the broad field of information technologies and governance.

If you’re interested in attending TGC: Communities, Technology, and Participation, please register by emailing tgc@servelots.com. Participants are welcome to register for one or both days of the workshop. See program: j.mp/tgc2011

More information, including a program, concept note and directions, can be found at http://janastu.org/technoscience/index.php/TGC2011

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Open Source as Infrastructure

A discussion on how we can develop and address various cultural and societal aspects using open source developments over the last decade, as an analogy. A look at the development of open source and discuss why large companies are committing resources to open source as it makes business economic sense. What it is to give respect not only to inventors but to the uncredited many, and how we can use this as an analogy to look at various aspects of a culture as information infrastructure.

Link to the wiki article: Jump to the wiki page

A quick look at the contents:
How Open source is making business economic sense; Infrastructure Discussion;  ICT for Development and cost implications; Open Source in International Market Economy; The Google discussion and Consolidation of Services; Open source and usability discussion; Reference Links and related references; Discussants, Contributors

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MyST, My School Tool

Abstract on the MyST report

Download the Nov 2010 version of MyST report.

During our project on Communities, Technology and Participation we chose to study School information Management as an important means of understanding how the community can collaborate, with one another and with us, to define and implement their technology needs. The communities of interest are groups of teachers, school officials, monitoring agencies and the software development interest group. The report describes in the requirements of data and work flow managements in schools, highlights the key issues in the use and development of a system in creating an environment of participative application development for a community for their data management needs. In summarising our findings, we observe that while there is sufficient commonality between schools in terms of the data and work flow processes, any school specific customization by the school officials is to be encouraged for the schools to feel empowered with such a system. Socio-cultural influences, localization, type and set up of the school and internal dynamics of participative collaboration are various aspects of a schools’ “My School Tool”.

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