- Ph.D. in Social Sciences, Maxwell School of Syracuse University (2005-10) [dissertation]
- M.A. Economics, Delhi School of Economics (1997-2000)
- B.A. Economics, St. Joseph’s College, Trichy, India (1994-97)
- Schooling, mostly at St. John’s Vestry, Trichy, India
- Consultant, Cache Consultants (Dec 2017 on)
- Adjunct Professor, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (Jan 2018 on)
- Research Scientist, Tech Policy Lab, University of Washington (Jan 2018 – May 2018)
- Visiting Scholar, Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law (July 2016 – Jun 2017)
- Consultant, National Democratic Institute (2016)
- Academic research & program manager, Program on Liberation Technology, Stanford University (2011- Jun 2016)
- Lecturer, ‘Internet, public action & development’, Stanford University
- Instructor, ‘Politics of South Asia’, Maxwell School of Syracuse University (2005-10)
- Coordinator, Right to Food Campaign, India (2002-05)
- Policy Coordinator, National Alliance for the Fundamental Right to Education, India (2001-02)
- International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), (2000)
Book Chapters (Peer reviewed)
Conferences, Newspapers & Reports
- Combating corruption with mobile phones: The project supports Civil Society Organizations working in rural India to fight corruption and improve the delivery of public services using technology. The project started in 2012 with support from Google and has been implemented in five states of India. Based on encouraging results, the project received a grant in 2017 for scaling and evaluation.
- Mobilizing equity: The project aims to improve the effectiveness of Elected Women Representatives in rural India by creating a knowledge base that they could access on questions of governance. We are working towards a digital platform that combines features of a learning platform (with structured content) and a Q&A platform (with an emphasis on peer-led learning).
- Massive Open Online Course on using technology to promote transparency: I was the course leader for a Massive Open Online Course that discusses ways of using technology to promote transparency and accountability. The course was offered in partnership with the National Democratic Institute and involved presentations by over a dozen leaders in this space. It was offered on Stanford Online during Aug-Oct 2016, and select teams from the course met in DC and in San Francisco for an in-person program during summer 2017.
- Constitution Explorer, a structured database of constitutions that will help people identify how different constitutions have dealt with various problems. I started this initiative with colleagues at Stanford, and the idea was adopted half-way through the project by colleagues in the University of Chicago and University of Texas, and it is now alive as www.constituteproject.org
- Secretariat to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court in the Right to Food litigation: The Supreme Court of India appointed Dr. N.C. Saxena and (the late) Dr. S.R. Sankaran as commissioners in what is known as the ‘right to food litigation’. I established their secretariat and worked with them for three years. The commissioners have been instrumental in framing many of the arguments in this landmark litigation.
- Placement Cell, Delhi School of Economics: Started an initiative to set up the placement programme at the ‘D.School’ that has since become well-established and very successful.
Invited presentations (selected)
Presentations on my work at the Right to Food Campaign: Boston University (2006), Harvard University (2006), Syracuse University (2007)
Delivering Public Services Effectively: Tamil Nadu & Beyond: Ashoka University (2016), Azim Premji University (2015), Cornell University (2014), Institute of Development Studies, UK (2015), London School of Economics (2015), Queen Elizabeth House of Oxford University (2015), Stanford University (2012, 2014, 2015), Syracuse University (2009), University of Connecticut (2012)
Presentations on technology & accountability: Asia Foundation (2011), Harvard India Conference (2014), Oxford Internet Institute (2015), Singularity University (2012), Stanford University (2011), Syracuse University (2014)
A few links to know me better
- A brief mention of my dissertation by Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze in an article here.
- Webcast of my talk on the role of technology in combating corruption (78 Mins).
- A talk on Combatting corruption with mobile phones at the Oxford Internet Institute.
- Design thinking & a revolution in governance at Stanford University.
- Can India’s welfare programmes be reversed? A talk at Azim Premji University. (A version of Book Talk)
- Webcast of my talk on democratic movements in the Neoliberal Era (28 Mins)
- A video of my friends trying to imitate my vigorous nodding of the head with a South Indian twist to it (1 Min). And then, you may want to check this out:
- The cutest goodbye message on video made for me (3.15 Mins)
From my formative years, I tried my best to run away from well-defined boxes that people wanted me to identify me in. I have been many things: economist, techie, sociologist, designer, activist, ventriloquist, spouse and dad. Barring the last three categories, I have been identified by those labels only as the “other”. Activists have called me a techie while techies preferred to call me an activist. Social scientists of various disciplines recognize the training I have in a discipline not their own.
What I have done well is to traverse different social worlds, enough to understand the basic tenets and idioms in them. I hope to use this ability to act as a bridge between different intellectual worlds, by translating languages, and by recognizing what resources we can borrow from different fields towards a common goal.
There are three worlds that I am keen on connecting: activism, technology and the social sciences. I have spent many years gaining experiential and academic training in these subjects and there is so much that could be done by bringing together imaginations from each of these fields.
My academic as well as activist life (see below) have been based on my conviction that basic public services such as health, education, water, sanitation and other amenities make a huge difference to the quality of our lives, and that that society should ensure that everyone has access to such services. In the past, I worked with several rights-based campaigns that work on basic education, the right to food, care for children under six, and the right to information. While working with these campaigns, I was struck by the vast differences in the provision of public services across Indian states, and I believe that states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu have contributed enormously to human well-being by ensuring the availability of these services to most people. My dissertation looked at why Tamil Nadu developed the social commitment to providing public services, and this was published by the Oxford University Press in 2014 entitled, “Delivering public services effectively: Tamil Nadu & beyond”.
Academically, I have a broad range of interests in development-related issues including the right to food, the right to education, anti-corruption movements, collective action and the role of institutions in development. These interests are a direct fallout of my work with various campaigns for socio-economic rights in India. I have been a “grease monkey” with technology, but it has recently turned into an academic interest as well, given my location at the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford. My main line of work at Stanford is to look at the role that ICT could play in making governments transparent. One of my projects currently underway in India seeks to create proactive disclosure of information using mobile phones that have become ubiquitous in India. I am also working towards building a detailed guideline for policymakers on amending different sets of laws, including access to information laws, in order to ensure the greatest use of technology for transparency.
Other than academic pursuits, I have a wide range of interests including in movies, bird watching, ventriloquism, travel, music and of course, spending a lot of time with friends. You can learn more about me, my interests and my life through this website including some gossip, my research, articles I published, reflections on life as a doctoral student, etc. Off late, I have moved away from the academia as my mainstay and have started consulting in the corporate sector. I will have more to about that experience when I have it figured out better 🙂
Considering that you have come this far in this page, it looks like you have some interest in my life. Do come back, and I promise to keep this updated!