The concept of an information society has broad appeal for policy-makers as a powerful way of imagining the future direction of development. Information and communications technology (ICT) has been embraced at a high-level in India and the country is a leading innovator in the use of technology for public service. However, while ICT promises dramatic improvements it also brings specific challenges into focus.
In line with the move towards e-governance, the largest urban initiative to date, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), mandated a central role for ICT in urban management and service delivery as a condition of access to funding for city governments. However, the steep learning-curve and limited implementation of the JNNURM points to important tensions in urban politics that technology alone is unable to resolve. The technology and expertise required by the JNNURM has the potential to strongly bias the direction of urban development.
Drawing on fieldwork as well as desk-research, this presentation attempts to illustrate challenges for e-governance in India through the examples of urban water supply and the JNNURM. The argument draws on the academic and policy literature, a comprehensive review of media coverage, 30 semi-structured key informant interviews in two Urban Local Bodies (“A” and “B”), and more recent research in one of India’s larger metros.
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