A citizenship in crisis: voice, welfare and other contestations in the digital state

A citizenship in crisis: voice, welfare and other contestations in the digital state

The vision, design and implementation of e-governance in India with its attendant “datafication” leads to many pertinent questions about the changing nature of governance and state-citizen engagement.

This Brief argues that data-based decision-making in India is part of a larger trend that seems to displace the complex ingredients of participatory governance - dialogue, deliberation, audit and answerability - in favour of a fait accompli that disempowers citizens. Whether it is biometric based authentication systems, online grievance mechanisms or Big Data based beneficiary rationalisation, the absence of modes for a meaningful right to be heard, right to contest and seek accountability, decouple citizenship from rights and justice. The authors take the view that digital technologies in governance and data-based solutions need to be harnessed towards strengthening grassroots democracy rather than alienating it. They put forward the Charter on Democratic Accountability in the Digital Age as a step towards consolidating this emerging dialogue on data governance / data in governance.

The Brief ends with a stark warning: The civic-public value of the digital governance paradigm must be co-constructed by citizens. if the much acclaimed openness of the digital movement cannot be put to the service of participatory grassroots democracy, democracy itself runs the risk of being cannibalised. This brief is part of a series from IT for Change produced from its Voice or Chatter research project, which examines the relationship between ICT-mediated citizen engagement and democratic governance.

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