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Accepted Paper:

Digital Identity Platforms in Reconfiguration of State-Citizen Relationships in Social Cash Programmes  
Atika Kemal (Essex University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper critically examines the partnership of State social cash programmes with digital identity platforms for the disbursement of social cash post-pandemic. We critique on the use of digital ethnography that establish the findings.

Paper long abstract:

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many vulnerable populations worldwide. In some countries, the crisis led to an instant State intervention, subjecting governments to rapidly mobilise their social cash resources to support marginalised poor citizens. While many State social cash schemes are known to leverage on digital identity platforms for the targeting and delivery of social cash, some may even use more sophisticated digital technologies, such as AI and analytics, to expand the scope of their beneficiary base. Such measures aim to build and foster more equitable and accessible networks between the State and citizens, but there is still discourse on how digital identity platforms may have excluded certain citizens from the social safety net leading to greater mistrust affecting State-Citizen relationships. The paper critically examines the case of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme in Pakistan that was instantly deployed to protect most of the country's vulnerable citizens during the pandemic. There is much questioning whether such identity platforms have led to the greater marginalisation of poor populations leading to their social and financial exclusion. By adopting digital ethnography, we interpret the narratives from different actors in the field in understanding how digital identity platforms re-orient communities and reconstitute new forms of structures and relationships between the Citizen and the State. It is further argued how digital identity platforms reshape new forms of power dynamics that emerge between different institutional actors. This debate underpins the notion on how digital technologies may give rise to structural inequality that obstructs citizens inclusion in the digital social space.

Panel P22b
Researching the post-pandemic city through digital ethnography