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[liberationtech] CFP: Technology, accountability in S. Asia & beyond. Mumbai Jan 17-18

Vivek S. vivekdse at
Mon Sep 23 10:36:11 PDT 2013

Dear All,

I request you to forward the call for papers for the ‘Technology,
accountability and democracy in South Asia and beyond’ to any relevant
people or mailing lists.  The four main themes for the conference are:

1. Technology and the electoral process

2. Combatting “last-mile” corruption in public services

3. Gender, technology and accountability

4. Building safeguards around India’s Aadhar project.

We are interested in academic research and project presentations, and we
would particularly welcome studies, projects or initiatives that focus on
vulnerable groups.  You can download call for papers with further details

S Vivek

Technology, accountability and democracy in South Asia and beyond (summary

Seasoned activism meets technical imagination

*Dates*: January 17-18, 2014

*Location*: University of Mumbai

Over the last few years, there has been unprecedented focus on corruption
and accountability across South Asia.  Accountability movements have
resulted in a variety of initiatives including special monitoring bodies,
transparency laws, monitoring mechanisms, judicial reforms and refining
government processes.  These initiatives bring different understandings of
problems and approaches, with varied strengths and weaknesses.  Despite
these differences, they are increasingly converging on the use of
technology to augment a growing set of accountability strategies.

The availability of new devices, the power of the Internet, the reach of
mobile phones, and citizen activism give us reason to believe that the use
of technology has real promise in advancing the accountability agenda. Yet
the claim of technology’s promise is not without its critics. The use of
technology has created new avenues for corruption despite claiming to
combat it. Technologies rolled out in the name of advancing citizenship
also create avenues for greater surveillance and disenfranchisement.  Many
initiatives are not controversial, but their effectiveness is yet to be
evaluated rigorously. Finally marginalized people, who need tools for
accountability more than anyone else, have significantly lower levels of
engagement with it.  The promises and problems of technology’s relationship
with accountability require closer examination.

This conference proposes to bring together people who are engaged in these
questions as activists, officials, academics and innovators to examine how
technology is currently being used for accountability projects and to build
meaningful platforms for the future. We specifically seek to bring together
people with experience in accountability movements (with or without the use
of technology), young innovators and researchers in order to promote rich
multidisciplinary conversation and to build new collaborations.
Seasoned activism meets technical imagination

One of the most persistent criticisms of technology for democracy projects
is that they focus heavily on the tools without paying attention to the
complexity of their use and the fact that accountability is a political
project steeped in power relations.  In order to ensure that technical
imagination goes hand in hand with a sophisticated understanding of the
problems and strategies necessary to make technology a tool for progressive
change, we propose to invite seasoned civil society activists and leaders
from the government who have had a successful track record in managing
positive change to meet individuals who are just beginning to consider
technology as a response to the same problems. The conference will thus
foster an exchange of ideas between innovators and experienced activists so
that innovators can share their tools and experiences while also deepening
their understanding of technology’s relevance and challenges for potential
uses on the ground.  In turn, experienced political, social and economic
leaders will gain ideas on how elements of technology can be introduced
into in their work.  With this in mind, the conference format provides for
opportunities to learn about technology projects, meet with platform
creators, and participate in workshops to gain tools suitable for diverse
campaign needs.
Who can participate

·        Innovators who have been building technical tools that could be
used by citizens, civil society and the media to make governments,
corporations and NGOs more accountable.  We also welcome projects that are
based on social media, mobile technologies and data journalism, etc. for
promoting accountability.

·        Leaders from the government who have an experience in the
conference themes.  These include people who have an experience in election
commissions, local administration, procurement process, accountability
bodies (e.g. auditors, information commissions, ombudsmen and Lok Pals) and
other public bodies that suit the conference theme.  The conference is
particularly looking for leaders who have made a concerted effort at
improving accountability in their sphere of work.

·        Civil society organizations that have been working on issues such
as clean elections, anti-corruption, improving public services and
governance of public resources.  We welcome organizations that already use
technology as a part of their campaign strategy or those who are interested
in understanding how technology could be used in their work.

·        Investigative journalists who focus on different aspects
corruption and accountability who are interested in using technology for
analysis and reporting.

·        Academic researchers who have studied accountability projects of
interest to the conference.  We are particularly interested in studies on
the intersection of technology, accountability and democracy.

The conference is led by the *Center for South Asia* and the *Center on
Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law* (CDDRL) both at Stanford
University.  It will be organized in partnership with Department of Civics
and Politics, University of Mumbai and the Stanford Alumni Association of

In case you are interested in applying for the conference or if you would
like to learn more, please send an email to Vivek S. (vivekdse at
or Rachel Brule (rebrule at; reb11 at

To register, please go to
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