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Transforming state-citizen relations in food security schemes: the computerized ration card management system in Kerala

Masiero, Silvia (2012) Transforming state-citizen relations in food security schemes: the computerized ration card management system in Kerala. CDS Working paper (WP451). Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.

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In this paper we look at the application of ICTs to the improvement of state-citizen relations in a developing country context. Our argument is that, to maximise responsiveness of the government, ICTs need to target the structural problems in state-citizen relations, from which unresponsiveness of the state to citizens is generated. Failure, as portrayed here, arises from the fact that ICTs, rather than being used for tackling the causes of issues in government responsiveness, tend to be conceived and utilised primarily as a means for acquiring political consensus. This argument is illustrated through a case study of computerisation of the ration card procedure in the southern Indian state of Kerala, where a typical problem of state unresponsiveness – mirrored by a burgeoning amount of unattended ration card applications – is matched by a typical e-government solution, i.e. digitalisation of the process of document release. Our case study reveals that, while the structural problems of the process of ration card delivery in Kerala lie within two crucial nodes, namely poverty status determination and verification of applications, the digital solution devised by the government addresses predominantly the front-end, politically appealing node constituted by citizen application for a ration card. This strategy, which leaves untouched the crucial nodes of state unresponsiveness, turns out in citizen dissatisfaction on the long run. Implications are both theoretical, as a cause for failure is identified and deconstructed in the domain of ICT4D, and practical, as an orientation to structural problems is recommended for policymakers that engage in ICT-based government reform.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © The Author, CDS
Divisions: Management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2014 11:55
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:59

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