Notice Board

ICEGOV2017 Special Proceedings

The International conference on eGovernance 2017 (ICEGOV2017) was held in New Delhi in Mar 2017.

This is a paper published in the special proceedings of the conference.

This paper suggests that an understanding of social issues and insights into the ways in which people use and interpret technologies can lead to an appreciation of which amongst available technological solutions to use and how to use them.

In other words, using technologies with certain specific characteristics, in itself may not be enough to build effective or “smart” systems of governance. Understanding the underlying social dynamics and issues that technology is trying to address may be the "smart", though arguably obvious thing to do.

ACM DL Author-ize serviceModels of Smart Governance: Community Involvement in Local Governance
Ravi Shukla
ICEGOV '17 Proceedings of the Special Collection on eGovernment Innovations in India, 2017

Open Access Publications

Most academic journals have started charging a fee to make your articles accessible for free. This is can be to the tune of about a $1,000 (USD).
In addition, there are a host of newer open access journals that simply publish everything sent to them - for a fee.
This seems to be part of a marketplace for getting publications under the academic belt by paying to get articles published.

There are several interesting aspects to the strange brew of academic publications
a) The Impact Factor of journals (an indicator of the academic "weight" of the publication) is being called into question, and IMHO, and while there seems to
be a case for revisiting the IF mechanism, simply doing away with it does not seem to be the answer

b) The cost of open access in IF journals is justified by calling it the cost for "peer review", but the peer review in fact is already over by the time the decision
to accept a paper for publication is reached. The cost of accessing an article can be anything upwards of $15 per download, simple math suggests that
it would take around 40-50 downloads to recover and equivalent amount.

c) While academic articles generally hold little interest to the people at large, they generally have some interesting aspects which can be explained in non-academic
language the people can find interesting. Thus, it may make sense to have two "versions" for publication - a "general reading" version that costs say a dollar or two and
an "academic" version costing say twice that.

Precolonial Science and Technology in India

Small pox inoculation

A letter dated February 10, 1731 from one Ro Coult to Dr Oliver Coult that suggesting that the practice of ‘tikah’ had been in place about 150 years at the time of writing. It was introduced in the UK in 1720 where it proved to be relatively successful though ‘vehemently opposed by large sections of the medical profession and the theologians of Oxford’
Ro Coult ‘OPERATION OF INOCULATION OF THE SMALLPOX AS PERFORMED IN BENGALL’, Page 149, -> Vol 1: Dharampal’s Collected Works

Between Vimanas and Natives!

Two opposing views about science and technology in India suggest a) that the British brought progress and development to the natives in India and b) that we had indigenous knowledge and technology of everything from nuclear missiles to space flight.

The following examples show simple, yet effective methods and techniques that were documented by the early British who tried to learn and appreciate local knowledge; things that possibly contributed to ‘western’ science and technology. The outcome of one such effort was the formation of the Asiatic Society in Kolkata in 1784.

Most of these are excerpts from the work of Dharampal in the 1960’s, a pioneer who studied the archives of the British East India Co and the records of the British Government, so may be considered ‘unbiased’ – at least in terms of glorifying indigenous s & t. According to Claude Alvares, in the Preface to the book, Dharampal’s work led to the ‘unmaking of the English-generated history of Indian society’.

Manufacture of iron or “wootz”

It was manufactured using the simplest of tools (page 227). It was cheaper by far in cost than its European counterparts some of which ‘cannot be surpassed by the best Swedish iron’, Britain imported most of its steel from Sweden till well into the nineteenth century.
Major James Franklin, Bengal Army, F.R.S., M.R.A.S. 1829, ‘THE MODE OF MANUFACTURING IRON IN CENTRAL INDIA’, Pages 213-241, -> Vol 1: Dharampal’s Collected Works

Making of Ice in Allahabad

In Allahabad, where the temperature Never drops to freezing!

Sir Robert Barker. F.R.S. , First published 1775, ‘THE PROCESS OF MAKING ICE IN THE EAST INDIES’, pages 213-241 -> Vol 1: Dharampal’s Collected Works

There are many other examples and texts; these appeared more interesting and unusual!

Emergence of NI in Social Context

A PhD on the above topic was submitted recently submitted at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy (JNU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi
The thesis argues that the emerging field of Neuroinformatics or the 'science of information relating to brain or behavioral data', is best approached as a technoscience.
"Technoscience" here implies not only the inherently technical nature of the scientific quest but also the notion that when it comes to understanding behaviour, there may not
be a set of universalized, scientific "laws". The search instead seems to assume a set of mechanisms underlying behavior that may point to broad, probabilistic 'patterns' of behaviour.

Click Emergence of NI in Social Context: PhD Abstract to read the complete story.

IBM and the Third Reich

One of the little known stories in IT circles is the role of IBM in the holocaust.

Its critical role in collecting and collating US census data is well known, what is not so well known is the story of how IBM and its subsidiaries aided the Third Reich in identifying, cataloging, and keeping track of Jews across Europe.
This fascinating and horrific story seems to be an affirmation of the politics of information and the power that comes with it.

The question comes to mind is "If these technologies reflect certain values and politics, what was the role of the engineers and designers? Why did they continue to take an active role in it?"

Click IBM and the Holocaust to read the complete story.

Paper Submission: Cognition, Information and Activity

The mutually reinforcing relationship between information systems and cognitive processes are reflected in metaphors such as the notion of the mind as an information processing machine and efforts such as machine learning and neural networks.
The predominant understanding of cognition - that functions such as memory, learning and reasoning involve the storage and manipulation of images and symbols also pervades software modelling and design - itself a cognitive activity.
However, a somewhat different understanding of Cognition - as a dynamic and adaptive activity of responding to one's physical and social environment also points to newer approaches in modelling.
This paper suggests possible extensions to the Unified Modelling Language (UML) that take on board domain specific and social aspects and activities and include them in design models.

New Paper Submission Cognition, Information and Activity.

Technologies in aaddhaar : A Sociotechnical Vew

aadhaar as a scheme to give each and every resident of India a unique biometric based mnemonic was initiated in 2009.

The namkaran or christening of the Unique Identification (UID) Scheme as Aadhaar seem to be in tune with the governments agenda to implement this "programme to make a difference to other programmes" as the platform for eGovernance.

In order to understand the scheme from a social standpoint, it may be relevant to understand some of the underlying technologies from a social perspective.

This article attempts to explore the "sociotechnical" side of these systems...

Click Technologies in aadhaar to read the article.

Clean Nuclear Energy ?

The flip side of climate change and global warming had been a resurgence of nuclear energy in some parts of the world.

The Fukushima disaster for the most part seems to have closed the question for most people.

But not in India, here, we are told, similar disaster can never happen, and if they do, our disaster management infrastructure is upto the task of handling it!

Here is a document written as an M Phil dissertation from Ravi Shukla, a researcher at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, (CSSP) , Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi that engages with the question of Nuclear energy in India. It is of the view that Nuclear energy in India, with its military history, its repeated failure to deliver on its promise, its flawed assumptions and it centralization of power and secrecy, conflicts with democratic values and aspirations as the recent agitation and the state response shows.

Written in 2006, the dissertation does not speak specifically about Kudankulam, however the general arguments seems to have continued relevance in the light of recent protests and actions in Kudankulam. Click here to see the document.

War and Killing

How do people kill each other in a calculated way? It is one thing to do so in the heat of the moment or while in the grip of of some fervour, quite another to do so in a 'natural', human way.

Here is a heartening link that seems to agree.
Apparently only 15-20% of soldiers even in direct confrontation actually use their weapons. No wonder it takes intensive training and/or brainwashing to get humans to kill each other!

Read more here: Soldiers are reluctant to kill