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

Big DataSubscribe to Big Data

The Transition to Big Data in India

Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India edited by Sandeep Mertia and foreword by Ravi Sundaram, Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2020; pp 160, price not indicated.

Professionalising Election Campaigns

The 2014 and 2019 general elections in India were referred to as “WhatsApp elections,” which had IT cells, bots, and political consultants strategically using data mining tools to build resonant narratives to tell voters what they wanted to hear. By the 2014 national election, the industry was reported to be worth $40–$47 million. Between 2014 and 2018, industry specialists approximated that the number of firms in this market had at least doubled. These unprecedented tools of technological campaigning come with new forms of identifying, targeting, and defining issues of political importance. This article suggests that such developments are turning electoral politics into a thriving business being data-driven, technologically oriented, and having far-reaching implications for democratic processes.

Data Privacy and Competition Law at the Crossroads

The recent case of WhatsApp changing its data privacy laws is analysed as an example of issues emerging with competition law. Much has been written about the absence of data privacy laws in India that is likely to leave consumers vulnerable to sudden policy changes by service providers like WhatsApp. In this context, it is argued that informed consent from consumers is unlikely to be present and rather than depending on data privacy laws, it should be competition law that can ensure minimum harm to consumers and prevent adverse effects on market competition.

The Macro Frames of Microwork

Based on a qualitative study of women microworkers on Amazon Mechanical Turk, this paper explores the gendered modus operandi of global platform capitalism. For women from households negotiating caste and class status in small-town South India, digital labour platforms like AMT are the optimal choice; an answer to both economic necessity and familial validation. Women must, however, endure the platform’s coercive disciplining, striving to meet its unknowable metrics. With the pandemic, even as they are forced to contend with the oppressive precarity of digital labour—reducing job availability, falling pay, longer hours and the risk of suspension—work on AMT, paradoxically, becomes non-negotiable. The artificial intelligence-based regimes of the platform economy urgently need a norm shift towards gender equality and redistributive justice.

Alarmingly Simplified Data Gathering

The Aadhaar Effect: Why the World’s Largest Identity Project Matters by N S Ramnath and Charles Assisi, Oxford University Press, 2018; pp 328, ₹ 350. Dissent on Aadhaar: Big Data Meets Big Brother edited by Reetika Khera, Orient Blackswan, 2019; pp 288, ₹ 406. We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves by John Cheney-Lippold, NYU Press, 2018; pp 268, $14.19.

Interrogating the AI Hype: A Situated Politics of Machine Learning in Indian Healthcare

Though they may seem as such, AI technologies are not merely technical systems. Rather, they are constitutive, and indicative, of the sociopolitical contexts that they are situated in. This is part of a six-article series on questions surrounding data, privacy, artificial intelligence, among others. You can read the introduction here .

Is India's Digital Health System Foolproof?

This contribution builds on " Data Infrastructures and Inequities: Why Does Reproductive Health Surveillance in India Need Our Urgent Attention? " and seeks to understand the role that state-run reproductive health portals such as the Mother and Child Tracking System and the Reproductive and Child Health will play going forward. To do so, the article critically outlines the overall digitised health information ecosystem being envisioned by the Indian state.

Breaking up Tech Giants

The economic power wielded by tech giants has been aided and abetted by the lax enforcement of antitrust regulations by the United States. It has allowed them to create an almost impassable moat around their businesses, while being able to bully, browbeat, and buy out any competitors who look remotely threatening. Calls by politicians to break up these tech giants are more than timely and need to be taken seriously by regulators across the world.

India's Data Protection Framework Will Need to Treat Privacy as a Social and Not Just an Individual Good

The idea that technological innovations may compete with privacy of individuals assumes that there is social and/or economic good in allowing unrestricted access to data. However, it must be remembered that data is potentially a toxic asset, if it is not collected, processed, secured and shared in the appropriate way.

Big Data, Bigger Lies

The claim that the government will use big data analytics to trace those who illegitimately deposited old currency notes, is just another instance of using lies to score political points. Notwithstanding this hollow posturing, the way this government is talking about the power of big data and its uses, only confirms the worst fears of the misuse of Aadhaar and other public data entrusted to the state.

Rethinking Economics, Statistical System and Welfare

The paper picks up what can be called as a thread of discontentment in conventional macroeconomics through a brief review of literature, carefully chosen to bring home the importance of micro, to justify that it can give a realistic framework of analysis of the economy. To support research for validation of alternative theories challenging the rational approach, deeply rooted in the general equilibrium theory, we need empirical evidence linking the micro with the macro. The idea is to seek conformance of these theories based on ground realities and to consider institutions and governance as important components of this analysis. The existing statistical system in India needs to be reoriented following the System of National Accounts 2008 on microdata to capture distributional characteristics of macroaggregates. There is a new direction in applied econometrics based on the idea of stochastic equilibrium which is testable using microdata. The paper touches upon this idea citing a single work.
Back to Top