- 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
- Visiting Scholar, Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law (July 2016 onward)
- 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: Inspired by the right to information movement of India, we are building tools that could be used by right to information activists to collect public records on anti-poverty programmes and disseminate this information to people via mobile phones. The system also enables activists to collect grievances and forward them to the administration for timely grievance redressal.
- Mobilizing equity: Thanks to reservation, a large number of Panchayats (village-level governments) in India have women presidents. Most women presidents do not have prior political or administrative experience due to which they are unable to exercise their authority effectively. To redeem the situation, many civil society organizations have started working with elected women presidents. Along with Rachel Brule, a Political Scientist at NYU-Abu Dhabi, I am starting a project to support one of the impressive support organizations – Resource and Support Centre for Development (RSCD). RSCD has connected over 500 women presidents in Maharashtra with each other. Currently, the presidents are connected through the organization and through periodic face-to-face networks. We are working with RSCD to connect the presidents through a mobile-phone based list-serve system, which has the potential to dramatically improve their connectedness, and in securing timely support to work effectively.
- Massive Open Online Course on using technology to promote transparency: In partnership with the National Democratic Institute, I will be offering an open online course on technology for transparency aimed at activists and engineers. The course is tentatively set to start in July 2016.
- 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 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.
- Center for South Asia, Stanford University
- Member, Evaluation Reference Group, Making All Voices Count
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)
- 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)
My name is Vivek, and I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University, which I joined after finishing my PhD in social sciences from Syracuse University, New York. 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, 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 I will be publishing a book on this topic with 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 policy makers 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.