De(coding) the poor: Towards a transparent and accountable NREGA information infrastructure

This paper examines the information infrastructure produced by Government of India’s flagship poverty eradication tool, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA, 2005). This justiciable act, grants the rural citizen the right to work, and aims the ‘to provide for enhancement of livelihood and security of the households in the rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in every financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.’Launched in 2005, it was extended in three phases to cover all of India. The following figures convey its scope: The Act’s schemes provided employment to almost 55 million households and spent approximately 80 billion USD in 2010-11 alone (DoRD, 2011). The union government realized the scope of data management this programme demanded, and introduced an ambitious nationwide digitization drive to address this challenge. Further, building on the rights-based model of the act, it located transparent and accountable information as a key driver in the success of the poverty alleviation goal. We examine this MGNREGA information infrastructure as a critical e-governance mechanism and ask the following question: What is the relationship between the MGNREGA information infrastructure’s vision of transparent, accountable programme-related information, and its need to achieve scale and sustainability?

Publisher  IFIP 9th International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries

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