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Transparency, exclusion and mediation: how digital and biometric technologies are transforming social protection in Tamil Nadu, India

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 22:59 authored by Grace CarswellGrace Carswell, Geert De NeveGeert De Neve
What are the effects of biometric and digital technologies on social protection for the poor in India? Drawing on ethnographic research from rural Tamil Nadu, this paper presents evidence of how new technologies are experienced by beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (PDS), and analyses the impacts of technology innovations on transparency, exclusion and mediation. The authors focus on the implementation of ‘smartcards,’ new digitised and Aadhaar-enabled ration cards, introduced in ration shops across Tamil Nadu in 2017. They first document how digitised smartcards and mobile text messages transform transparency for beneficiaries by introducing new opacities and information gaps. They then demonstrate how a lack of transparency (re)produces forms of exclusion that remain a challenge under the automated PDS. Finally, the paper highlights how novel forms of kin and non-kin mediation play a mitigating role in accessing PDS, and constitute a vital part of the infrastructure underpinning social welfare delivery.

History

Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Accepted version

Journal

Oxford Development Studies

ISSN

1360-0818

Publisher

Taylor & Francis

Department affiliated with

  • Anthropology Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

Legacy Posted Date

2021-02-05

First Open Access (FOA) Date

2022-10-01

First Compliant Deposit (FCD) Date

2021-02-04

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