Digital technology is far from neutral. It is embedded in and generates its own structures of power. While the scope to expand public accountability through digital technology is vast, accessibility is still an urgent issue. We want to integrate and ground digital technology in the lived realities of those for whom it is most out of reach. To start with, this means demystifying complex government data sets and making it available to ordinary people in digestible formats that enables action and access.
Jan Soochna Portal
SAFAR has collaborated with the Soochna Evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan (SR Abhiyan) and the Department of Information Technology (DoIT), Government of Rajasthan to develop the Jan Soochna Portal. As a single web platform, the Portal offers information related to planning, budgeting, and expenditure of more than 58 schemes across 32 departments. The platform is the first such portal in the country and is a breakthrough for enforcing the disclosure of information under the Right to Information Act. The Portal has been developed and is run by the State DoIT and is the outcome of collaboration between Civil Society Organizations and the Government. which included bi-monthly digital dialogues on discussions on formats detailing the exact nature of information that is required to be made public, and in what form, for each scheme.
SAFAR is working with organizations promoting the use of RTI in the State and the Centre for E-Governance, Government of Karnataka to develop a single web platform that provides mandatory disclosure of information, modelled on the Jan Soochna Portal. Karnataka has now become the second state in the country to have a portal like Jan Soochna, known as Mahiti Kanaja, which shared information from the departments of Revenue, Panchayati Raj, Education, Public Distribution System, Social Security Pension, Housing, Agriculture, MGNREGA, Swacch Bharat Mission, Rural Banking, Police, Electricity, Health, and Family Services.
Portal for Tribal Development Department, Maharashtra
SAFAR is working with the Tribal Development Department (TDD), Government of Maharashtra to also build a platform for disclosing actionable and relevant information on interventions rolled out by the TDD. These include: running residential schools in tribal areas, scholarships for tribal students, Forest Rights Act registration, ST Sub Plan, Tribal Health and Nutrition Programmes, infrastructure development in tribal areas, etc. The portal, once developed and launched, will bring actionable information into the public domain. Governments at various levels have undertaken initiatives to build digital architectures for grievance redress through helplines, web portals, and other extensions. However, this digital architecture often disempowers complainants instead of empowering them. We are working with the SR Abhiyan, Department of Administrative Reforms, Government of Rajasthan, and Tribal Development Department, Government of Maharashtra to develop policies that will facilitate complainants in registering grievances and tracking the status of their redress, and ensuring that public participation guides such processes.