Rajesh Veeraraghavan

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I am a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, PhD candidate at UC Berkeley School of Information and a Research Fellow at the Transparency and Accountability Initiative at the Open Society Foundation.

I am interested in information and communication technologies for development(ICTD).  My research include both experimental attempts to introduce information and communication technologies for social change as well as critically examining claims that are often made on the transformative use of technology.

My research questions the widespread belief that information technology can be used to "solve" either development or governance "problems," both by engaging in activism involving technological interventions and by using empirical methods to critically examine claims about the impact of ICT in governance. I study how information and communication technology (ICT) is used in practice to regulate economic, social and political relationships.

My PhD dissertation uses comparative ethnographic field work to examine the political, bureaucratic, and technological relations involved in the implementation of "open government" schemes, particularly with regard to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA), which is a significant plank in the country's pursuit of social justice. NREGA aims to support India's poorest citizens by guaranteeing a minimum level of employment for rural families. With the aim to eliminate corruption, the state instituted “social audits” and online record keeping, to improve government records and bureaucratic compliance, but the outcomes were found to depend greatly on existing state-citizen dynamics. Based on my findings, I recommend that open government projects go beyond the rhetoric of democratizing information to the more challenging task of democratizing administrative surveillance.

While at the Berkman Center, I will explore the use of high-resolution satellite map data to improve the quality of public infrastructure in India. Remote sensing data can be used as a starting point for material audits by providing a way to track built infrastructure and to enhance administrative surveillance. By monitoring the building of roads, canals, and other infrastructural assets and comparing it against project documents, it should be possible to create a "deviation report" that identifies and quantifies local corruption on a scale that was not possible before. Building on findings from my dissertation, the system will be a socio-technical system that relies on on-the-ground partners and human intermediaries both to detect and confirm deviations, as well as to celebrate creation of public assets.

I am currently a research partner in a Stanford based Combating corruption with mobile phones project at the Liberation Technology group, that is working through activists, NGOs and the State to provide citizens living in rural India with "relevant" information about changing government practices and public records to foster local public action. 

Previously, I was an associate researcher at the Technology for Emerging Markets group at Microsoft Research, India. My work focused on building appropriate technologies for socio-economic development. One of my projects there was the first in the context of developing-world rural ICT to replace an existing PC-based system with a mobile-phone system; the system communicated information between a sugarcane cooperative and its member farmers via SMS. My work led to several research publications as well as non-profit spin-off called Digital Green on whose board I serve currently. Before MSR India, I worked as a software developer at Microsoft in the United States and was an active volunteer with the Association for India's Development. I have a Master's degree in Computer Science from Clemson University, Master's degree in Economics from Cleveland State University, and Bachelor's degrees in Economics and Management from Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani, India.

My CV is here.

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