Aakash Solanki

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Toronto, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10167

Approve Date

April 27, 2021

Project Title

Solanki, Aakash, Toronto, U. of, Toronto, Canada - To aid research on "In Pursuit of Algorithms: An Ethnography of Data Driven Governance from India," supervised by Dr. Francis Cody

Globally, governments, and corporations are keen to explore applications of machine learning algorithms for governance. The reasons for the new approach are not hard to discern: global trends, donors, corporations etc. India is a generative context for experimenting with algorithmic techniques given its hyper diverse and large population as well as “developmental” context (LMIC with robust technology industry). The Indian state is invested heavily in “transforming” itself into a “data-driven” state using new digital data infrastructures. But how is data-driven governance put into practice among bureaucratic inertia, old habits, and ways of thinking, and existing networks (of kinship, privilege, and power)? By following the implementation of a national program aimed at “transforming” government agencies in select districts into “data-driven” organizations, this project asks (1) How are newer data infrastructures assembled in the wake of existing data ecologies which have developed over colonial and postcolonial eras? (2) Are new epistemic practices generated as part of this infrastructural shift? How might we understand the relationship between computing infrastructure and the question of knowledge production? (3) Do aspirations to data-driven forms of knowledge and decision making suggest the emergence of a new model of governance? What form might this model be taking?