ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Information Technology and Welfare

Social Security Pensions in Andhra Pradesh

The use of information technology in public administration is seen as a significant tool for improving efficiency, transparency and accountability in governance. We study the use of various forms of IT, such as computerisation, public management information systems, digital ID and biometrics in the social security pension programme in Andhra Pradesh. IT interventions need to be unbundled in their evaluations since our analysis concludes that there is no automatic link between the use of IT and enhanced transparency or accountability, and the use of IT may reinforce existing power imbalances.

The authors thank Jean Drèze, Anshika Jain, Aakash Solanki and Anmol Somanchi for their feedback and comments.

E-government has been defined in different ways in the literature (Yildiz 2007). In this article, e-government refers to the adoption of information technology (IT) in government processes to promote transparency and accountability,1 an important policy objective in India. There are benefits from the use of IT in government, but increased application of IT does not necessarily engender greater accountability (Barata and Cain 2001). As early as 1982, Danziger et al (1982) argued that “computing will reinforce the power and ­influence of those actors and groups who already have the most resources and power” (quoted in Yildiz 2007: 648). Wong and Welch (2004) suggest that “it is simply a myth that e-government will automatically and dramatically change the accountability nature of public organisations.” Yildiz (2007) highlights the need for more empirical work from outside the United States (US), which has so far been the focus of most studies related to IT.

As noted by Heeks and Bailur (2007), there is a tendency for the literature to be techno-deterministic and celebratory. For instance, in spite of the mixed and somewhat sobering evidence, problems tend to be relegated to the footnotes and the tone remains optimistic (Bhatnagar 2003). On the other hand, only a few studies ­focus on, what are typically dismissed as, “teething issues” (Prakash and De 2007). Earlier studies of IT and information and communications technology (ICT) in ­India have examined e-government initiatives by studying whether, and to what extent, such applications of “e” in governance have achieved their goals (Bhatnagar 2003; Madon 2009; Masiero 2015). However, ground realities and ­nuance are not always reflected in this work—for instance, Masiero (2016) fails to acknowledge the continuation of quantity fraud and greater exc­lusion in the presence of biometric authentication in ­India’s public distribution system (PDS) (Khera 2011).

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Updated On : 11th Jul, 2020
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