Digital technology is not 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 and working with It systems for enabling peoples rights to register and track their complaints.
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 320 schemes across 115 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. The website has had more than 110 million hits since it launched in September 2019. Read the Primer we have put together for more details on the making of the Jan Soochna Portal, case studies and how to navigate the website.
Modelled on the Jan Soochna Portal, SAFAR is working with organizations promoting the use of RTI in Karnataka and the state government’s Centre for E-Governance to develop a web platform for mandatory disclosure of information across programs. Karnataka has now become the second state in the country to have a portal like Jan Soochna, known as Mahiti Kanaja, which shares 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.
Consultation on Digital Technology got enabling transparency and accountability
SAFAR is committed to providing platforms for civil society organizations, governments and academics to draw lessons and examine many of the theoretical and practical issues related to transparency, particularly in the digital space. There have been many issues related to digitized information including its collection, storage, access, management and dissemination. There are also the all-important issues of surveillance and commercial uses of data, that efforts to pursue transparency have to navigate through. These require a wider discussion amongst Governments, civil society organizations, legal experts and citizens. One such consultation was organized by SAFAR in collaboration with the Government of Karnataka which can be viewed here.
Support Social Audit Units (SAU) in strengthening proactive disclosure through MIS
Web-based Information Systems are crucial in not just aiding the process of social audits but also in enhancing transparency for accountability and effective grievance redress. SAFAR is working with the social audit units of Rajasthan and Bihar to support them in conceptualizing, designing, developing, and implementing a people-centric web-based information system, which would enhance accountability of the process of social audits as well as of social audit units. The purpose of such an information system is to record and maintain social audit findings as well as track action taken for each type of grievance that is identified in a program or a policy. Such information system will also aid people and the State Government in monitoring the actions on policy and programmatic gaps in the state.
Social Audit Web Repository
SAFAR is developing a publicly accessible toolkit to support current social audit efforts by the state and civil society. This web-based repository will be a resource hub that brings together the now vast amounts of material that has been generated on social audits. The documents will be organized by type, state, program and other key words for easy navigation. Each section or tab in the repository will also be accompanied by brief explainers that give the documents some context. Watch this space for more!