Increasing internet surveillance: online transparency concerns in India

Posted on:26-02-14

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

Early this February, internet giants including Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Twitter made a breakthrough in online transparency laws, pushing the boundaries on how much information they can publish about U.S government requests made to them for data on online customers.  This breakthrough followed Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the mass data gathering exercises orchestrated by the National Security Agency (NSA) last year. The long and heated debate on the lack of transparency in U.S government-initiated internet surveillance mechanisms divided opinion between the right to privacy versus protecting national security.

After a long battle with the government, online companies are now able to report the number of Foreign Surveillance Information Act (FISA) requests and national security letters that they receive from the U.S government. While this is an important step towards beginning to understand the nature of government led surveillance, perhaps ‘breakthrough’ overshoots the definition of what happened in February. Read more »

Do Private Tuitions improve Learning Outcomes?

Posted on:24-02-14

Ambrish Dongre & Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative

Despite increased attention to school based learning over the past decade by policy makers, the ASER reports have shown that the learning levels of children in the Indian education system have remained consistently low and have, in fact, declined over the past 8 years. The latest ASER report shows that only 41% of children in the age group of 6-14 can read a standard 2 text (ASER 2013). Consequently, critical and rigorous analysis of policies surrounding provision of school-based education has received much-deserved attention[1]. In the process, the role of additional educational inputs provided by households, such as private tutoring, has remained neglected. Read more »

Highlights from the Interim Budget 2014-15

Posted on:17-02-14

Avani Kapur and Smriti Iyer, Accountability Initiative

This document highlights the key features of the interim budget 2014-15 that was released on 17th February, 2014.   Read more »

Strengthening SMC to make SDP– Should be an Empowering Process

Posted on:10-02-14

Anthony Chettri, Accountability Initiative

I had recently attended two training programmes on Strengthening the School Management Committee[1] (SMC) to make an effective School Development Plan. One of it was at the state level, wherein all the District Education Officers of the state attended and the other was at block level, where in block level extension officers for education including some head masters and cluster coordinators were present.  The major objective of this program was to train the officers to support SMC members with respect to access, equity, quality and community participation, while SMCs develop the School Development Plan (SDP). All of them are directed towards empowering individuals in the management of school related activities. Read more »

Through the Looking Glass

Posted on:05-02-14

Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative

In all the debates about rights, social sector schemes and pushing towards ensuring quality services to citizens, there is but mere passing mention about the importance of performance management and administrative reforms over and above the implementation failure of public services[1].  This blog looks at the growing emphasis on the features of the social sector schemes, and overlooking the other side of the (administrative) coin which looks at the management style and employer-employee relations in a public sector context. This has been discussed by Lant Pritchett[2]  in the context of ‘State Capability Trap’ in reference to governance & public sector reform. Read more »

On Backwardness and Special Status – part 2

Posted on:22-01-14

Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative

My previous blog (available here) had outlined the manner in which funds are transferred from Government of India (GOI) to states and the need for a fresh approach in transferring funds in the context of changing centre-state relations. In May 2013, GOI had set up a six-member Committee headed by Raghuram Rajan (now RBI Governor) to develop a measure of development or (under) development. The Committee released a Composite Development Index in September 2013. This blog presents a summary of the index by laying out the objectives, methodology and finally the resultant shares of fiscal transfers from GOI to respective states. Read more »

Not The Straight & The Narrow

Posted on:13-01-14

Smriti Iyer, Accountability Initiative

With a new government coming to power in the capital and National Elections round the corner; there have been a lot of discussion over issues of government. The question of why governments do not take some obvious steps to improve governance and implementation of public policy is central to this debate. This blog aims to provide an overview on the role cast out for the government in economic theory and how this can be extended and modified to understand government behaviour. In part, it also seeks to answer why social sector schemes and activities in the economic realm do not function the way they ought to. Read more »

Conditionally Yours: Cash Transfers and School Attendance in Bihar

Posted on:06-01-14

Shailey Tucker & Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative

Student attendance in government schools in Bihar has been low for some time.[1] The Government of Bihar (GoB), with a view to boost attendance in its schools, decided that only those students who have at least 75% attendance in the period of April to September, would be eligible for various entitlements, such as money for uniforms, cycles and scholarship. The academic year 2012-13 was the first year in which this policy was introduced. A couple of our blog-posts last year had looked at the implementation of this policy at the school-level (see here and here). In a nutshell, there was much confusion on the ground about eligibility and distribution, with massive protests from parents and students. Overall, however, most teachers and administrators at the time claimed that such a condition on entitlements was necessary to get children to stay in school. Read more »

New ways of conducting field surveys: Computerised data collection and responsive survey design

Posted on:12-12-13

Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative

In November, I went for a talk at NCAER on “Computerized data collection and the management of Survey Costs and Quality” by James Wagner and Nicole Kirgis from the University of Michigan. The abstract of the talk stated that it would cover topics like responsive survey design, survey biases and ‘paradata’. Now, usually, I am quite wary of talks where I don’t understand 50% of the abstract. However, this talk turned out to be quite interesting and useful. Read more »

Notes from the field: School Management Committees – Somebody Else's Problem Field

Posted on:19-11-13

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

“The Somebody Else’s Problem field is much simpler, more effective (in making something properly invisible) … This is because it relies on people's natural predisposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Three years ago, the Right to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act[1] placed significant responsibilities on elected parents of students, representatives from the school staff (including the headmaster) and the community when they created School Management Committees[2] (SMCs) in every government school. Read more »