The politics of anti-poverty artefacts: lessons from the computerization of the food security system in Karnataka

2016-10-14T14:50:28Z (GMT) by Silvia Masiero Amit Prakash
The last few years have seen a rapid increase in the discussion of the role of new technologies in strengthening social safety nets. However, the hypothesis that technology design is intertwined with political agendas - aiming at instilling specific visions and policy objectives in anti-poverty programmes - has remained to a large extent unexplored, being either taken as implicit or neglected by technical discourse. In this paper, we look at computerization of a large food security programme - the Public Distribution System in Karnataka, India - to argue that technology, far from simply affecting the functioning of existing processes, can be built to advance specific political agendas, which carry clear stances on the ways in which social welfare targets are to be reached. However, recipients? perception of these programmes depends highly on how technology affects access to their entitlements, which need therefore to be set at the core of anti-poverty technology design. The case study is used to draw lessons for policy, specifically aimed at countries embarking into computerization of their social safety nets.