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Accepted Paper:

'Now we are going paperless!' On the use of e-Governance in public service delivery by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and its impact on the accessibility of its politicians and bureaucrats  
Prakriti Chopra (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

Discussions on 'data justice' through the standardization of e-Governance use in cities of the Global South must account for the potential of norms/culture, or informality public service delivery, to contribute to the accessibility of the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for its provision.

Paper long abstract:

The characterization of the 'government office' in the cities of India - burdened by mountains of paper, is changing. Paper, the primary medium through which the data value chain involved in the resolution of public service delivery complaints is generated, is posited to be replaced. E-Governance has been positioned at the forefront of initiatives by municipal corporations to increase their responsiveness to the demands of the public. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation is no exception. Its interface of politicians and bureaucrats has committed to 'going paperless' by utilizing e-Office and social media to fulfil its institutional mission of providing instant service delivery to the 14 million residents of Kolkata. However, with a number of written and unwritten sources of paperless service delivery, evaluating the accessibility of the KMC politics-bureaucracy interface in its provision has been difficult. This requires the embedding of norms and potentials of e-governance with pre-existing, intangible relationships within the KMC, which are equally important. Through a comparative analysis of the perception of KMC Ward Councillors and bureaucrats – gathered in semi-structured interviews and non-participant observation at the KMC headquarters and offices of Ward Councillors across Kolkata - I will argue that the lack of uniformity in regulation, or the ‘deregulation’ of paperless service delivery, has been intentionally maintained by the KMC. In fact, its politicians and bureaucrats believe that justice in the collection, transmission, and storage of data leading to the resolution of complaints, can be attributed to a 'flexible culture' of 24x7 availability and accessibility.

Panel P04
Data justice and development [Digital Technologies, Data and Development SG]
  Session 3 Friday 28 June, 2024, -