Bak Bak 20*20: A Live Blog of PKN Presentations

If it is true that the quality and character of our institutions is determined by the way in which we communicate. If it is true that we are communicating in dramatically new ways and if it is true that there is a tremendous yearning for change in the way our government systems work then perhaps it is time for Democracy 2.0.


We will hear from Anil Verma from the Association of Democratic Reforms, Sumandro Chattapadhyay, Informatics researcher at HasGeek Media LLP, Aditya Gupta, People for Parity, Prukalpa Sankar, Social Cops, Sumeeta Banerjee, UNDP, Surendran Balachandran, and Dheeraj Dwivedi, winner at Start-Up Weekend. 7 Presentations, 20 slides x 20 seconds each. Let the chit chat commence!

19:30 Sumandro Chattapadhyay: Back when the empire was in place, citizens fought and struggled for civic rights and liberties. We had no idea how things were mediated, and how authentic they were. We had representative democracy, though the people who took leadership from our side were not happy about it. The three senses of seeing, speaking and hearing, also lend themselves to technologies and especially technologies of communication. To use this technology, is to listen. You have softwares that claims that real democracy only happens when people join in and technologies make room for certain kinds of engagement. However, usage of technology is not uniform across the world. Therefore, we can turns this discourse upside down and discuss the relationship between technology and democracy. The wet world of what makes internet run, are organizations that we have no interaction with, and therefore doesnt broadly follow a democratic model. To begin with, democracy hasnt solved our problems. This is about how democracy has failed the way we use technology to begin with. Democracy, to a lot of us in the world, is not something that empowers us but often stifles our human rights. There would always be spaces outside legality, within which technology lives. The point is to also bring democracy to technology than to bring technology to democracy.

19:37 Prukalpa Sankar: Its estimated that at every single hour, people in India die, owing to bad roads and infrastructure. We took a train trip around India to understand the root of these problems and we found one important thing – an acute lack of social data. Google maps tells me routes, but as a girl not what the safest route is. As a citizen, I have no idea when there’s going to be a traffic disruption. 6.8 billion people in the world have mobile phones. Can we turn citizens in to censors using mobile phones to engage citizens and crowd-source social data? We do this at social cops across healthcare, waste management and other civic issues.  A campaign in Ranchi attempted to identify black spots in the city, that had no street lighting, and was successful in involving the chief minister and action out some changes. Citizens in Punjabi Bagh decided to do more than complain – they decided to rate their streets. We at social cops decided to match these with corresponding Safai Karamcharis, who then got an award, which was great motivation to them! Can we create a way, where people are contributing to data, creating maps, analytics, networks? All its going to take for you to participate in your community, is a smartphone.

19:44 Sumeeta Banerji:  I will speak to engaging people, at a National planning level. Our old, dephunked planning comission opened up through facebook. How can governments play a role in highlighting challenges along different parameters of democracy and governance – transparency, accountability? There is a paper audit trail being piloted right now that, in the current election, maps to whom your vote goes to as it drops. She discusses the roll of technology in education and facilitating learning. It is also essential for government to capture household data to increase transparency, and greater participation. Challenges of infrastructure, teacher training and engagement in hard to reach areas could be addressed through technology. Able to connect livelihoods to market through mobile technologies. Another role of the government is ensuring accountability, and the role of technology and government in addressing corruption. To get real time information on bribes, whats taking place at government offices etc.

19:51 Anil Verma: With the help of the citizen and government, we need to nurture democracy in order to make it work. The distrust between the goverment and citizens has to be eliminated. At present, the government is indifferent to the demands as such. I feel there is a requirement for having an open sort of government in which there is transparency, participation and collaboration between the state and the citizen. We need to have a balance between the privacy and openness of information. Trust is essential between citizens and government and therefore – how do we use the web 2.0 to do this? In India there are various examples of this including online registrations, computerization of land reports etc, but the problem is about transparency and accountability. We have ensured the release of background data on all candidates standing for election. There is generally a resistance between the political parties to give out data. We are trying to use internet, mobile and social technologies in order to crowdsource malpractices and breakdowns in failures.

19:58 Aditya Gupta: Do you think leading monarchies can form a democracy. Democracy seems to be failing us on most fronts, if not all. Maybe we need to look beyond governing units of the country and look closer to home. It is of the people, for the people, by the people. We need to try and identify where democracy is visible in our lives. I will share a story of a formally standing to cast their vote. We need to examine fundamental rights – the pillars of the democracy and see whether this features in family life. There are challenges of expression, freedom, equality of education at a family level. There’s no right against exploitation either. While we expect the government to enforce these at a national level, we need to be enforcing this at a basic, home level as well. Secularism is also absent at a household level. A lot of issues have been brought up – but maybe we need to embrace democracy in our own lives, and enforce it by ourselves as opposed to a champion leading us to democracy. We need to hold ourselves responsible.

20:05 Surendran Balachandran: Democracy is about engaging with political leaders, decision makers in various spheres. You are an activist – if you want to do something in order to bring about social change, you are an activist. The internet gives you the information and knowledge, to bring about change. Decision makers – be it politicians, or business leaders- are nobody if they dont have us and people need to realise and own this. The use of mobile phones is a whole new fascinating world – 188 million people in India use mobile phones that opens up a whole new potential for participatory government. Democracy 2.0 is about mobilizing people to reach out to decision makers, bring about change, through information and technological tools.

20:12 Dheeraj Dwivedi: If we involve democracy in our daily life we can make India a successful democracy. Democracy is part of our lives. What is Democracy? It is a concept we can use in life. It is a process that involves people – whether a family decision or a governance decision – people are constant. We need to treat people as equal – they should return what they get. We need to give equal knowledge and resources in order to enable them to make correct decisions. When you have resources you dialogue to allocate them. We create amendments, policy, various other decisions. It is how election works and this is election time. To vote, you go by trends, and information we get from people around us, without concrete data that supports our claims and decisions. Is there a solid base to our decisions? Media creates a world around us very successfully. Is the problem the availability or access of data? It is available, accessible, but scattered. It is a lot of work to access it. We need something simple, accurate and efficient. We are working on a tool that visualizes data perfectly, that can help take proper decisions. This is data that we are entitled to, and it should be readable, and understandable in order to take informed decisions.

20: 20 – Namrata Mehta: Some great, powerful images and an inspirational set of presentations!


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