Future of Rights and Citizenship in the Digital Age

Future of Rights and Citizenship in the Digital Age seeks to identify and address challenges emerging from increased usage of data and algorithms in society. Supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, this project will undertake systematic, evidence-based research and advocacy towards a citizen-oriented framework for data and algorithmic governance in India.

The project focuses on three areas: gender justice, labor rights in the digital economy and citizen rights. Specifically, it seeks to address:

  • What are the assumptions and value propositions underlying current data and algorithmic regimes and how do they recode gender justice, labor power and citizen rights?
  • What kind of normative principles are required to ensure that data and algorithmic regimes reflect feminist, labor justice and citizen rights standpoints?

Research Outputs

The macro frames of microwork: A study of Indian women workers on AMT in the post-pandemic moment

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June, 2021: IT for Change's Anita Gurumurthy, Khawla Zainab, and Sadhana Sanjay conducted a study of Indian women workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk (AMT) in the post-pandemic moment, and this research report extensively lays out its rationale, process, and findings. Through a qualitative study based on interviews with AMT workers, the report shows how an intertwining of economic necessity and familial validation makes microwork on digital platforms an optimal choice for small-town Indian women from upwardly mobile households in a global digital economy. As a workplace, AMT demands an exacting adherence to the rules of the platform, but enjoys absolute impunity. The study, thus, reflects how digital labor platforms, like AMT, engage in global labor arbitrage, exploiting gendered and racial faultlines in the digital economy. Pointing to the urgent need to address gender and redistributive justice, the authors propose policy recommendations for the government, multilateral institutions, and digital labor platforms as well as advocacy strategies for trade unions and civil society organizations. Findings from this study were first published as a research paper for the Review of Women’s Studies 2021 issue on Gender and Covid-19 of Economic and Political Weekly (EPW).

Input to Public Consultation on the Draft Health Data Management Policy

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September, 2020: We made an input to the draft Health Data Management Policy of the Government of India, which is meant to act as a guidance document across the National Digital Health Ecosystem (NDHE) and sets out the minimum standard for data privacy protection that should be followed across the board to ensure compliance with relevant and applicable laws, rules and regulations. In our submission, we highlighted numerous issues with the policy, including contravention of the judgement of the Indian Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy case, a lack of clarity on key concepts pertaining to personal data protection, deficits in proposed institutional governance mechanisms, lack of institutional safeguards for processing of sensitive personal data, risk of private capture of public data infrastructure, and risks of exclusions from health services. Our recommendation included making the PDP Bill a necessary precursor to the policy and highlighting the need for institutional safeguards for processing of sensitive and personal data.

Input to NITI Aayog on COVID-19: Impact on Women and Girls

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July, 2020: We contributed inputs about gender and digital technology to a report for the NITI Aayog titled 'COVID-19: Impact on Women and Girls', prepared by a group of organizations working for gender equality and women's empowerment. In this, we called for investment in gender-responsive design and the development of appropriate public digital and data infrastructure for critical economic sectors and delivery of essential public services, to ensure that women are not left out in the post-COVID recovery map we chart, including measures for promoting women’s livelihoods in the context of digitalizing value chains, by making the platform economy work for women’s enterprises; promoting women FPOS’ participation in the Indian e-NAM public marketplace for farmers; using data from e-NAM and Agristack to support farm innovations for women farmers; and promoting the on-boarding of women enterprises on the Government eMarketplace (GeM), IT for Change’s recommendations also focuses on creating a valuable public data backbone for ensuring effective public service delivery.

Submission in response to NODE White Paper

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June, 2020: IT for Change responded to the Government of India's consultation white paper for the Strategy for National Open Digital Ecosystems (NODE). In our submission, we have suggested important changes and improvements in the proposed approach and its key principles including that the NODE architecture and principles be based on democratization norms, and their core governance be in hands of accountable public bodies.

Feedback on EU Consultation for the New Competition Tool and the Digital Services Act Package

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June, 2020: In our submission, we highlighted that as a significantly new economic paradigm, the digital economy, cannot be successfully regulated by industrial age competition tools. We have also suggested that successful digital economy regulation should focus on the data, cloud, digital intelligence, and intelligent services layers of a digital economy.

Submissions to Call for Inputs by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

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June, 2020: In our contribution, we reflected on critical issues for the realization of Freedom of Association by women and girls in the digitally-mediated public sphere, from the standpoint of the indivisibility of human rights online and offline. These included, lack of access to the Internet and household surveillance cultures as well as datafied surveillance by state actors.

Media Pieces

A Plan for Indian Self-Sufficiency in an AI-Driven World (LiveMint)

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July, 2020: With an immense emerging global concentration of AI power, the field has basically become a race between the US and China. All other countries are fast being left behind. To avoid becoming AI dependent, countries and regions like the UK, France, European Union (EU) and India are shaping their AI strategies towards establishing a strong domestic AI industry. In this article for LiveMint, Parminder Jeet Singh highlights the role that a strong framework for data sharing can play in ensuring that India’s AI journey remains self sufficient through enhanced community data ownership.

Data is an Economic Resource. GK Committee Report Shows How Its Value Can Be Shared, Governed (Indian Express)

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July, 2020: Non-personal data, which includes anonymised data is increasingly becoming almost as important as personal data. It is in this context that a committee set up by the government on governing non-personal data, headed by Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys, recently put its draft report for public consultation. In this article for the Indian Express, Parminder Jeet Singh describes the contours of the Non Personal Data (NPD) draft report, including community owned data and its legal basis, as well as the broader potential of clear articulation of these regulations.

May Day Series on Labor in the Digital Economy in the Covid Context

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May, 2020: IT for Change curated a special series on labor in the digital economy for Bot Populi, its alternative media platform. The series containing several essays and interviews on labor intersections with the digital economy, particularly in the then still emerging Covid context.

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