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Does IT work? Information Technology (IT) in Welfare in India


Khera, Reetika; Patibandla, Vineeth

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WP 2019-04-01


The use of information technology (IT) in public administration is viewed as a significant tool for enhancing transparency and accountability. In popular rhetoric, these continue to be heralded as necessary and sufficient conditions for increasing transparency and accountability. This paper studies the use of various forms of IT such as computerization, public management information systems (MIS), digital ID and biometrics in two welfare programmes in India. This paper aims to (a) use government MIS portals to shed light on the performance of welfare programmes, (b) understand whether recent IT applications have been beneficial or detrimental to programme performance and (c) comment on what extent IT has fulfilled its potential to enhance transparency. We find support for two earlier findings: one, there is no automaticity between use of IT and enhanced transparency or accountability and two, the use of IT may reinforce, even exacerbate, existing power imbalances rather than mitigating them. Further, we find some evidence of ‘too much’ technology being detrimental to improving administration and accountability.


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