Combating Corruption with Mobile Phones in India



Vivek Srinivasan, Stanford University

Date and Time

October 17, 2013 4:30 PM - 6:00 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Wallenberg Theater

FSI Contact

Kathleen Barcos

I will discuss an ambitious project by the Program on Liberation Technology to fight corruption with mobile phones. The project is being designed with partners in four states of India on issues such as education, health and social protection for some of the most vulnerable communities in India.  The project has started at a time when technology for transparency and accountability projects have come under increasing scrutiny. For example, a series of papers have questioned if transparency has an impact in improving accountability, and thus have raised questions on the very premise of such projects.  Similarly, the Open Data movement succeeded in getting data in the public sphere but most datasets are languishing with no takers.  He will discuss what these studies mean for the project, and some insights from it on designing technologies for transparency and accountability.

I joined the Liberation Technology Program as the Manager in February 2011 after completing my Ph.D. in Social Sciences from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Prior to this, I worked with campaigns on various socio-economic rights in India, including the right to food, education and the right to information. Based on these experiences I have written (and co-authored) extensively on issues surrounding the right to food, including Notes from the right to food campaign: people's movement for the right to food (2003), Rights based approach and human development: An introduction (2008), Gender and the right to food: A critical re-examination (2006), Food Policy and Social Movements: Reflections on the Right to Food Campaign in India (2007).

In working with these campaigns, I realised the widespread disparities in the provision of basic public services in India. This led me examine how Tamil Nadu, a southern Indian state, developed extensive commitment to providing such services to all its residents in my doctoral dissertation.  Currently, I am expanding this work by looking at the dynamics behind the provision of public services across Indian states.

As a full-time activist, I also experimented with various IT platforms to make the campaigns effective. This interest brought me to the Liberation Technology Program at Stanford.  At the Liberation Technology Program, I am initiating projects relating to the use of technology to promote greater transparency and accountability in governments. My broader interests include collective action for socio-economic rights, the use of technology for public action, development studies and South Asian politics.

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