Academic Themes

Notes on my research, book reviews and discussions on social sciences
This section contains articles on some of my main areas of academic interest including economics, development studies, collective action, social policy, governance and the right to food. A few articles look software and utilities that would be of interest to researchers. If you are interested in any of these in particular, please click on the subtopic on the menu to your right.


The former Comptroller Auditor General of India, Vinod Rai, talks about different models through which corruption happens in government procurement.  Vinod Rai was the CAG when the body courageously brought out major scams on 2G, Coal block allocation, Commonwealth games, etc.    

Models of corruption in procurement by Vinod Rai


Media Lab Asia “has been promoted by Department of Electronics and Information technology, MCIT, Govt. of India as a not for profit company. The objective of the company was set to bring the benefits of ICT to the common man. It started with the functional activity areas such as World Computer Affordable, ubiquitous computing and access devices, Bits for All Low Cost, High bandwidth connectivity and Tomorrow’s Tool Rurally relevant applications. However it was later changed to application areas such as ICT for Healthcare, Education, Livelihood and Empowerment of Disabled”.  



The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) was formed out of a meeting on aid effectiveness held at Accra in 2009.In it, the donors agreed to public information regularly on funding, associated conditionalities and 3-5 year projection of funding. The reports are hosted by the donors in structured XML files in their own websites with a link to the IATI registry at http://www.iatiregistry.org/. I did a quick review of the information on the registry.  The database allowed me to filter files by organization, country and an assortment of other criteria.  Most of the data was provided at the aggregate level on the total funds allotted to […]

The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test: Till Bruckner writes about his effort to get information on project budgets for USAID funded NGOs in Georgia.  Here is his note on the experience: The documents are disappointingly full of blacked-out non-information. The level of disclosure varies drastically from one document to the next. Some budgets are provided in full, while others appear as blacked-out row upon row. In three cases, USAID even withheld the identity of the contractor itself. USAID explained this inconsistency saying that it was legally required to contact each grantee to give it “the opportunity to address how […]

Global Reporting Initiative has created a framework for corporations to report information on the economic, social and environmental impact of their day-to-day activities.  GRI provides standards of reporting and thousands of companies are producing ‘sustainability reports’ on the basis of their guidelines.


Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is a multilateral, multi-stakeholder initiative to bring more transparency into extractive industries such as oil, mining and gas.  The initiative recognizes that natural resources belong to people and the public revenue raised from them should reach the people.  The focus of the initiative has been on ensuring that companies disclose tax payments and governments do the same in terms of taxes they receive from companies.

XBRL India is the Indian arm of XBRL International, the international body for developing XBRL Standards for business and financial information, which is being adopted by regulators across the world.  XBRL India provides links to useful regulations and related events.

XBRL stands for eXtensible Business Reporting Language. It is a set of standards for reporting financial and business information in a way that machines can read the reports, compare and analyze them easily.  It presents a set of standardized vocabulary so that similar information can be presented using similar language by different companies.  Recognizing that one standard set of concepts may not cover every possible situation, the system allows national regulators and even individual companies to create terms that are useful for their unique situations (this ability to eXtend the vocabulary is represented “X” of XBRL). A short video introducing […]

XBRL for private sector transparency





LittleSis is a free database detailing the connections between powerful people and organizations.  The name is a play on ‘big brother’ which stands for the monitoring of common people by the powerful.  Little Sis does the opposite by monitoring those in positions of power. This is a project of Public Accountability Initiative and it tracks key relationships among politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions. It helps answer questions such as: “Who do the wealthiest Americans donate their money to? Where did White House officials work before they were appointed? Which lobbyists are married to politicians, and who do they lobby for?” […]




Data Portal India: The open data portal of India. The last I checked in 2013, it had very little information, and some of the data it linked to were not available in an ‘open format’. But it is in the Beta mode, and it is a start.


LegisPro Web by Xcential: The tool can be used to crate XML mark ups based on Akoma Ntoso format for legislations. The mark-ups are essential for comparing legislations and analyzing them with the use of technology.


MobileActive.org: MobileActive.org connects people, organizations, and resources using mobile technology for social change.