Technology and Society

In a world increasingly shaped by complex interactions of humans with technological systems, everything from agriculture to medical interventions, from public opinion making to smart city programmes, and from surveillance to commerce is mediated through and enabled by technologies. It is imperative therefore to understand what shapes the policies and programmes that govern these interactions and conversely how such interactions shape policies. Across boundaries of nation states and business regulation; technology policy interventions and formulation require detailed engagement with contexts, theories, and on-ground practicalities of the changing relationship between science, technology, and society.

The Centre for Policy Studies aims to study these developing technologies from within the Indian context, in order to create relevant and effective policy models for regulation and governance. Responsible Innovation, risk, and governance structures are some of the areas that this research group intends to focus on.

Research Topics

Anupam Guha
Topic: The political economy of AI and its impact on workers/work (for both PhD/MPP)

Description: Artificial Intelligence, as a collection of technologies, has become one of the focal points in which work, wage, and the mode of production is evolving and thus needs to be critically observed. Not only is the development of AI dependent upon complex chains of physical infrastructure, code, labour (regular, crowdwork, and hidden), policymaking, and decisions both political and economic but the development of this set of technologies also has an outsize and deep impact into how work is done, how policy is made, and how the politics of future will evolve. In fact , platformisation which is one of the current dominant paradigms of how work is altering would not be possible in scale without vast collections of data being harvested for intelligence using machine learning. Platformisation is but one of the areas where AI is starting to have an influence, the project aims to look at all kinds of design, development, and deployment of AI which is influenced by or influences production relations. Artificial Intelligence is a techno-social system which has the potential to revolutionise production, distribution, and exchange by automating intelligent tasks workers perform. It represents a formidable policy challenge because never in history since the Industrial Revolution has technology had the potential for altering the relations between labour and capital in such a radical fashion. This has implications specifically for the Global South, Indian workers in particular because of the lack of data protection laws, loose labour laws, a growing AI industry, and untrammeled finance capital in India. This project aims to study how many ways AI impacts Indian workers to inform policy. The project also aims at constantly surveying extant Indian policymaking on AI and responding and improving upon them.

Topic: The Automated Workplace: Digital Taylorism in India and abroad (for MPP)

Description: One of the consequences of the maturing of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Computer Vision (CV) technologies which are sub areas of machine learning in the last ten years, especially after the improvements on deep learning models, better LSTMs, and improved word embeddings have been the proliferation of what are called Electronic Monitoring and Surveillance (EMS) systems. Currently in India these systems have not only become popular in the public sphere with multiple police jurisdictions starting to use Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) among other use cases, but also seeping into workplace situations up to and including automated monitoring of the day to day running of official computing systems. This use of AI and automated technology in general to surveil, standardize, regulate, and discipline worker action is called Digital Taylorism by Altenried (2020), a new paradigm of using these technologies by companies to reorganize the workplace. When one considers the workplace as the locus of such an automation of surveillance, it is not hard to connect the design, development, deployment, of certain AI and automation technologies to profit maximization via this route. This research project aims to critically survey the types and the nature of such systems being used in Indian workplaces and investigate how they are being used to modify workplace behaviour, alter conditions of collective bargaining, and influencing precarity. Using comparisons with use of such technologies in other countries this project aims to aid policymaking to counter the inequity these systems engender.

Anurag Mehra
Topic: The Significance and Role of Private EdTech in the Indian Education System

Description: Education Technology is considered to be “hot” and a much invested in sector because it is considered to be the next frontier for technology to capture. This sector is populated by MOOCs that are run by corporations (Coursera, Udemy) as well as by public entities (Swayam – India) though most of these serve the higher education sector. Youtube also contains millions of education tutorials and lectures run by dedicated channels. But most importantly there are education technology companies (Byju) that cater to the school sector, tuition and coaching classes which include those geared for competitive examinations.

In this study we propose to focus on the school sector and what kind of educational technology services are available to them. We will attempt to find out who uses these services in terms of socio-economic profiles, what is the correlation with school boards and specific competitive examinations.

We will also focus on the business models and practices pursued by these companies and what kind of impact they actually have on learning in individual and collective terms.

It is also proposed to examine what impact the existence of these EdTech companies have on brick and mortar schools as well as coaching classes.