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Corruption and Reform in India: Public Services in the Digital Age
Dr Jennifer Bussell, University of California Berkeley, USA

Why do some governments improve public services more effectively than others? Through the investigation of a new era of administrative reform, in which digital technologies may be used to facilitate citizens' access to the state, this analysis provides unanticipated insights into this fundamental question. In contrast to factors such as economic development or electoral competition, this study highlights the importance of access to rents, which can dramatically shape the opportunities and threats of reform to political elites. Drawing on a sub-national analysis of twenty Indian states, a field experiment, statistical modeling, case studies, interviews of citizens, bureaucrats and politicians, and comparative data from South Africa and Brazil, this analysis shows that the extent to which politicians rely on income from petty and grand corruption is closely linked to variation in the timing, management and comprehensiveness of reforms.
A single flower does not make a spring: How regime responsiveness in China facilitates protests, but not revolts
Dr Christian Göbel, University of Vienna, Austria

Scholars studying revolutions have found convincing explanations of why a particular revolt has occurred and why people did or did not manage to dispose of a dictator. However, we lack equally convincing explanations of why revolts are not occurring in other, similar places. In particular, what drives those previously refraining from protesting, but suddenly taking to the streets to dispose of a dictator remains poorly understood. Also, we know little about the tools autocrats use to prevent this from happening. In this paper, I argue that the key to solving the puzzle of why “common” people take to the streets in masses in some autocracies and not others lies in the degree of responsiveness of the regime to those whose demands are difficult to organize or who are not likely to take to the streets unless fundamentally disappointed with regime. The capacity of autocrats to assess and address the budding grievances of the “silent majority” is instrumental in preventing revolts, but has not been studied systematically. I will illustrate my argument by drawing on unique data on protests and responsiveness from China, where social unrest has risen dramatically in the last decade.
E-Health in Rural China: Transparency in public healthcare
Dr Armin Müller, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany
E-Governance in Asia: An Overview
Dr Jesper Schlæger, Lund University, Sweden

A Critical Perspective on E-Governance in Asia
Dr Amita Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Looking at the e-landscape of Asia some changes have been captivating and transforming it; participatory governance and performance assessment of public/private decision makers. Every other change has been one or the other outcome of these two major achievements. However, states which have tried to achieve it within their cultural and historical framework have been found to be more successful than those which adopted the engineering approach to their adoption. Some initiatives were well intentioned such as the ones in the initial stages like the total quality management (TQM) or the e-procurement programmes for organizations. Some were cosmetic like the Citizens’ Charters and the online FIR registration systems and they took the shape of conventional governance very soon. Some initiatives were brought with an unavoidable indispensability like the banking and fiscal reforms. Developing countries in Asia had two major hurdles to cross in order to make their e-initiatives sustainable. First to prevent corruption and bring legal reforms in evidence acts and statement recording, and court procedures. Second to improve access of beneficiaries and stakeholders to welfare funds. The social media intercepts and accelerates e-performance of governance.

The challenge has been phenomenal and transcends traditional issues of access and affordability through international networking. A complete programme of e-accountability is understood differently by different governments in Asia depending upon their culture of democracy. Even the best of technology systems have failed to bring accountability and transparency. Gender concerns have remained in the backyard and a patriarchy of e-systems has kept women out of progress which these nations have been achieving. The concerns of e-dissemination is currently a problem of representative democracy which questions the fact whether holding free and fair elections is the chief characteristic of democracy or to ensure individual rights and distributive justice. It is within the two that e-governance in Asia encounters its biggest challenge.

A social credit system in China – realistic dystopia?
Matthias Stepan, MERICS Mercator Institute for China Studies, Berlin, Germany

The e-government agenda of the Chinese government takes inspiration from advanced democracies. However, some of the plans reach far beyond. An example is the announcement to establish a “social credit system” (社会信用体系 shehui xinyong tixi) by 2020. Already in June 2014 a first outline was released and later specified. Citizens shall be rated on the basis of financial, legal and social indicators. Foreign media called it an initiative to effectively control citizens and constrain their freedoms.

Governments around the globe are collecting an increasing amount of data of their citizens and link the information systems of different government services, for instance, tax collection and social security. In doing so, they are confronted with numerous constraints, such as vested interests of individual government agencies, a lack of expertise in collecting, analysing and protecting big data amounts, and last but not least legal guarantees for the protection of individuals’ private information. In his presentation, Stepan critically reviews the plans of the Chinese government and assesses the chances for its implementation in the current Chinese policy context. One of the central questions is to what extent private companies and citizens are going to be involved in the development and governance of the system.


Authoritarian collaboration: Unexpected effects of open government initiatives in China
Dr Pontus Wallin, Amsterdam University and Leiden University, the Netherlands

Many governments around the world are currently investing in open government initiatives online. Little is known about the effects of these initiatives and how citizens react to them. This study takes a comparative and citizen centric approach to explore how citizens experience government openness around the world. China is singled out as an especially interesting case as citizens perceive their government to be quite closed. In particular, Chinese citizens feel hindered to engage in civic participation. Previous research has found that the ability to control personal metadata and act anonymously is an important determinant of online participation and deliberation. An experimental study was set up to test the effects of anonymity in citizens' interaction with one of the main online government fora for public deliberation in China. The results of the experiment, and following interviews, suggest that many online users in China experience little control over personal data and that they perceive their chances to act anonymously as slim. A qualitative analysis of the content produced at the forum suggests that lack of control of personal data can affect the content of what users communicate online. Not only were users hesitant to voice dissent but they also saw a need to promote state interests. In this way the general online environment and the configuration of the forum can be instrumental in affecting citizens to collaborate toward authoritarian ends.
Open government data
Dr ZHENG Lei, Fudan University, China

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About the event


November 12-13


AF-building (Kerstins rum), Sandgatan 2, 223 50 Lund

jesper [dot] schlaeger [at] ace [dot] lu [dot] se


Download Programme (PDF)

focus asia poster november 2015

Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies
Lund University
Sölvegatan 18B, 223 62 Lund

Phone: +46 46 222 38 61
E-mail: info [at] ace [dot] lu [dot] se