Information Technology (IT) and Welfare in India: Does IT work?


Reetika Khera (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India)
Vineeth Patibandla (Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India)


Session: 2.1. Stakeholder politics

Abstract: The use of information technology (IT) in public administration is seen as a significant tool for improving efficiency, transparency and accountability and in popular rhetoric, and is often heralded as a necessary and sufficient condition for this. We study the use of various forms of IT such as computerization, public management information systems (MIS), a digital ID and biometrics in two welfare programmes in India. Using publicly available administrative data, we look at some performance metrics of welfare programmes, try to understand whether and which IT intervention has been beneficial to programme implementation and comment on the extent to which IT has fulfilled its potential to enhance transparency. We find, as others have earlier, that there is no automatic link between the use of IT and enhanced transparency or accountability, and the use of IT may reinforce existing power imbalances. We argue for unbundling IT interventions in their evaluations.