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Ashok Kotwal
On demonetisation
Posted on: 23 Dec 2016
On the evening of 8 November, the Prime Minister announced on national television that Rs. ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The GDP conundrum
Posted on: 16 Nov 2016
Ever since India’s Central Statistical Organisation came out with the new GDP series with ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The idea of a universal basic income in the Indian context
Posted on: 26 Sep 2016
The idea of an unconditional basic income given to all citizens by the State, has caught o ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: Ideas for reforms in education policy in India
Posted on: 18 Nov 2015
A New Education Policy is being formulated in India based on a time-bound grassroots consu ... read on »

Tag: IT

The dangers that lie beneath India’s IT layoffs
Maitreesh Ghatak
Posted on: 24 May 2017
Topics:   Jobs


The ongoing layoffs in India’s IT sector are at a scale that has not been seen since the global financial crisis of 2008. In this article, Maitreesh Ghatak, Professor of Economics at LSE, contends that while this is a major shock, the country’s demographic dividend, and global trends such as automation, demand an economic strategy that prioritises job creation more broadly.
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The state of the economy and mass perception
Ashwini Kulkarni
Posted on: 19 May 2017

In this article, Ashwini Kulkarni of NGO Pragati Abhiyan contends that the media should tap into the knowledge of practitioners that are familiar with the ground realities of social sector schemes – rather than those outside the sector - with regard to budget-related and other discussions on the sector. This will help provide the masses with a real picture of the developmental problems plaguing the economy.
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Assam’s Brahmaputra Community Radio Station: Innovation in health communication
Anjali Mariam Paul
Posted on: 12 May 2017

River Brahmaputra which flows across the Northeast Indian state of Assam, carves out a network of nearly 2,300 islands, isolating them from the mainland and excluding their inhabitants from access to basic infrastructure and health facilities. Based on her fieldwork, Anjali Mariam Paul describes the working of an innovative intervention in health communication – a non-commercial grassroots community radio station for these river islands.
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A five-minute loan to unlock micro-entrepreneurship in India
Vibhor Goyal , Niloufer Memon , Varad Pande
Posted on: 11 Jan 2017
Topics:   Finance


Micro-entrepreneurs are grossly underserved by traditional lenders, as they typically do not have collateral or credit histories to make them creditworthy. In this article, Pande, Memon and Goyal of Dalberg Global Development Advisors, describe how digital infrastructure created by ‘India Stack’ can help provide paperless, presence-less, and cashless credit to micro-entrepreneurs, in a way that is sustainable for lenders.
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Aadhaar, demonetisation, and the poor
Silvia Masiero
Posted on: 09 Jan 2017

There is a view that an Aadhaar-centred apparatus of digital inclusion can shield the poor from the problematic effects of demonetisation. In this article, Silvia Masiero argues that constraints of technology ownership, access to informational networks, and infrastructural readiness prove the argument wrong. Other means are needed to reduce the severe humanitarian consequences of sudden cashlessness.
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Unified agricultural markets: Where are the reforms lacking?
Nidhi Aggarwal , Sargam Jain , Sudha Narayanan
Posted on: 02 Jan 2017
Topics:   Agriculture
Tags:   Karnataka , IT


In April 2016, Modi government launched the e-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform – a pan-India electronic marketplace for trading of agricultural commodities. However, rather than ushering in a revolution, concerns have been raised regarding lack of traded volumes on the platform. To understand the reluctant progress of e-NAM, this column analyses the experience of the state of Karnataka that embarked on agricultural market reforms in 2007.
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Unique Health Identification and Aadhaar: A case for mandatory linkage
Mudit Kapoor
Posted on: 23 Dec 2016
Topics:   Health


As part of the Digital India initiative, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) issues a Unique Health Identification (UHID) number to each patient, which documents their entire journey in the hospital. AIIMS has called for a mandatory linkage between UHID and Aadhaar. In this article, Mudit Kapoor, Associate Professor at ISI Delhi Centre, explains how this step can have significant positive implications for delivery and democratisation of healthcare.
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The devil is in the details: Successes and limitations of bureaucratic reform
Iqbal Dhaliwal , Rema Hanna , Rebecca Toole
Posted on: 09 Dec 2016
Topics:   Health


To address absenteeism among staff at public healthcare facilities, the government of Karnataka introduced an innovative biometric device to monitor and enforce attendance rules. This column presents findings of a large randomised evaluation of the programme. While some health gains were achieved, imperfect enforcement illustrates the limits of monitoring solutions if there are constraints on full implementation in practice.
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Data openness and the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill
Samayita Ghosh , Khusdeep Malhotra
Posted on: 05 Sep 2016
Topics:   Political Economy
Tags:   data , IT


According to the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016, the acquisition or use of any geospatial information will require permission from a government authority. In this note, Ghosh and Malhotra highlight the importance of reliable geospatial information for development work. In their view, instead of restricting the production and use of such information, the government should regulate its quality and promote learning around it to ensure responsible and ethical use.
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‘I Paid A Bribe’: Using technology to fight corruption in India
Venkatesh Kannaiah
Posted on: 06 Jun 2016
Topics:   Corruption
Tags:   bribes , IT


‘I Paid A bribe’ (ipaidabribe.com) harnesses the collective energy of Indian citizens against corruption by enabling them to report anonymously on the nature, number, pattern, types, location, frequency and values of demands for bribes. In this note, Venkatesh Kannaiah, the editor of IPAB discusses the initiative and the value of technology in tackling corruption, both in India and globally.
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Aadhaar Bill: UID without excessively compromising privacy?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 06 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


Can something like UID be created without compromising privacy beyond acceptable limits? If so, how should the Aadhaar Bill have been written? What are its specific and avoidable weaknesses?

Tweet using: #AadhaarBill

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Aadhaar: Move towards a surveillance State?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 05 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


Most advanced economies have had some version of UID for a long time, example, the Social Security number in the US, the Social Insurance Number in Canada, etc. This is recorded not only in interactions with the State (example, tax filing) but also in many kinds of non-governmental transactions (example, college admissions or property purchase). Yet, it is arguable that these nations have not become police States, occasional abuse notwithstanding. If privacy concerns in India are justified, is it a reflection of the trust deficit in government specific to India (or poorer countries more generally)? Or do schemes like UID inevitably lead to a surveillance State anywhere in the world?

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Aadhaar and government benefits: Better targeting and reduced corruption?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 04 May 2016

Supporters of Aadhaar express the hope that will reduce inclusion errors and corruption by eliminating ghost beneficiaries, say in schemes like MNREGA. Are there substantial benefits to be reaped on this account?

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Aadhaar and government benefits: Risk of increasing exclusion?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 03 May 2016

The Supreme Court verdict that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory to receive benefits reflects the concern that it may increase exclusion errors, either by leaving people out of the net or through technological malfunction. Is this a serious concern?

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Aadhaar: Incremental information-gathering powers for government?
Jean Drèze , Reetika Khera , Raju Rajagopal , Bharat Ramaswami
Posted on: 02 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


The government already has the means to collect a lot of information on citizens (example, phone conversations and logs, credit card transactions, income tax records, bank account details, etc.). Conversely, there are many activities which happen under the radar (example, cash transactions, informal sector employment, etc.). What kind of information-gathering powers will Aadhaar confer on the State over and above what it already has?

Tweet using: #AadhaarBill

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Debate: The Aadhaar Bill
Parikshit Ghosh , Ashok Kotwal
Posted on: 02 May 2016
Tags:   Aadhaar , IT


In a debate on the Aadhaar Bill, commentators from academia and civil society will weigh in on issues around potential benefits and privacy concerns.

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MNREGA: Technology vs. technocracy
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 17 Mar 2016

In this article, Reetika Khera, Associate Professor of Economics at IIT Delhi, argues that for MNREGA to flourish in the future, technologies that empower workers should be encouraged, and the tendency to over-centralise the implementation of the programme should be reversed.

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Four key administrative reforms to strengthen MNREGA
Ashwini Kulkarni
Posted on: 17 Mar 2016

In this article, Ashwini Kulkarni of NGO Pragati Abhiyan, discusses four key administrative reforms that can strengthen the implementation of MNREGA, and enable the programme to fulfill its objectives more effectively.

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JAM and the pursuit of nirvana
Jean Drèze
Posted on: 13 Nov 2015

The Finance Ministry is proposing to roll all subsidies into a single, lump-sum cash transfer to households, on the back of the JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar, Mobile numbers) trinity. In this article, Jean Drèze, Honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics, argues that a single-minded focus on high-tech cash transfers as a foundation for social policy in India is fraught with dangers.
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What do we know about corruption in India?
Sandip Sukhtankar , Milan Vaishnav
Posted on: 16 Sep 2015
Topics:   Corruption


Despite ample media coverage of corruption, there remains a gap between headline-making scandals, policy options under discussion, and the actual evidence base drawn from empirical research on corruption. Based on an extensive review of the literature on corruption in India, this column highlights the underlying factors driving corruption, establishes a classification of corrupt activities, and distills five general principles that should guide future reform efforts.
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PDS computerisation: What other states can learn from Kerala
Silvia Masiero
Posted on: 06 Jul 2015
Topics:   Political Economy


Given the leakage in the Public Distribution System, Indian states are being encouraged to computerise their PDS. This column analyses Kerala’s experience with PDS computerisation and highlights mechanisms through which technology combats leakage in the state’s PDS. However, it argues that computerisation needs to be coupled with deeper interventions to remove incentives for corruption.
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Clicks and editorial decisions: How does popularity shape online news coverage?
Ananya Sen , Pinar Yildirim
Posted on: 18 May 2015
Topics:  


Identifying whether newspaper editors focus on what is ‘newsworthy’ or what is ‘trendy’ when choosing stories is important for the design of media regulation. This column shows how the popularity of an article, reflected by online clicks, influences the coverage of the story. However, this strategy operates differently for ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ news and hence, does not lead to a general decline of the quality of content.
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The financial inclusion agenda and Aadhaar
MS Sriram
Posted on: 18 Mar 2015

The central government is pushing financial inclusion in a big way. In this article, MS Sriram discusses the role of identity in financial inclusion, and the importance of Aadhaar in this context. He argues that while Aadhaar has facilitated opening of bank accounts by providing a verifiable identity to the poor, it has distracted the financial inclusion agenda by claiming to be a ‘fix-all’ solution.
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‘Cry, the Beloved Country’: Mending Punjab’s economy
Nirvikar Singh
Posted on: 11 Feb 2015

The growth rate of Punjab, which once ranked among India’s most affluent states, is slowing. In this article, Nirvikar Singh, who holds the Sarbjit Singh Aurora Chair of Sikh and Punjabi Studies at University of California Santa Cruz, diagnoses key issues with the Punjab economy and provides his perspective on what it would take to mend it.
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Building state capacity for better programme implementation: Lessons from the Andhra Pradesh Smartcard Programme
Karthik Muralidharan , Paul Niehaus , Sandip Sukhtankar
Posted on: 03 Dec 2014

Biometric payment systems are posited to reduce leakages in public welfare programmes but there is limited evidence on their effectiveness. This column presents evidence on the impact of the Andhra Pradesh Smartcard Programme on MNREGS and Social Security Pension beneficiaries, based on a large-scale randomised controlled trial. It finds substantial economic benefits, and concludes that using biometric payment infrastructure to deliver welfare payments can be a game changer for governance in India.
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How innovations in telecom can promote inclusive growth
Ashima Goyal
Posted on: 28 Mar 2014

Applications of Information and Communications Technology, such as mobile banking, have potential to promote inclusive growth and equity. This column analyses conditions under which innovations in ICT can benefit the less well off, and how such innovations can be expedited. It recommends public provision of supporting infrastructure, focusing on consumer needs and reducing transaction costs for consumers.
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Direct Benefits Transfer: An idea whose time has come
Varad Pande
Posted on: 14 Mar 2014

About a year ago, the Government of India launched a Direct Benefits Transfer programme that involves transferring government benefits and subsidies directly to residents through a biometric identification system. In this Note from the Field, Varad Pande, a government official who has been closely associated with the roll-out of the programme, reviews its promise and potential.
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UID project: Does evidence matter?
Reetika Khera
Posted on: 05 Feb 2014

The Indian government has been pushing to make UID compulsory, and is now moving towards charging for use of authentication services. This article asserts that the three key selling points of UID – corruption control, inclusion and portability – have been achieved in several states in major welfare programmes, by creatively using simpler technology that is free of the hassles attached to UID.
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Property rights and technology transfer: Evidence from developing countries
Sunil Kanwar
Posted on: 01 Mar 2013

The transfer of technology to poorer countries is essential for development. This column asks how this process is affected by intellectual property rights and whether the data can provide some policy insights.
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The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act: is it working?
Participants: Jean Drèze , Ashwini Kulkarni , Neelakshi Mann , Varad Pande , Martin Ravallion
Posted on: 29 Nov 2012

MNREGA is one of the government´s largest flagship schemes, and is the largest job creation programme of its kind in the world. Supporters believe that it is necessary to help rural workers smooth income in times of distress and increase labour market access for marginalised groups, whereas critics argue that it is taking labour from the troubled agricultural sector and doing more harm than good. What does the evidence really tell us - is MNREGA working or would resources be better spent elsewhere?
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Cutting delays in MNREGA wages
Saloni Chopra , Reetika Khera
Posted on: 10 Oct 2012

Officials in charge of paying MNREGA wages in the state of Andhra Pradesh can now expect to receive fines if there are delays. This column shows how this move was made possible by a simple automated system, how effective it has been, and how the rest of India should follow suit.
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