Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tom Slee on open data

From 'Seeing like a geek": "According to Bhuvaneswari Raman, the Dalit claim was sideswiped by a Tamil Nadu government program to standardize, digitize and centralize land records. The program, promoted by the World Bank as a pro-poor, pro-transparency initiative, was undertaken to capitalize on the boom in nearby Chennai. The absence of clear land titles made extensive land purchases time consuming and expensive, and this was a bottleneck to large-scale development projects. As part of the program, the Tamil Nadu government declared that the digitized records would be the only evidence admissable in court for land claims, so the older records and less precise data that formed the basis of the Dalit claims lost any legal footing they had, and their claim was sunk.
A new generation of land developers grew up alongside the digitized records: firms with the skills and information to make efficient use of this new resource. These developers lobbied effectively for records and spatial data to be made open, and then used their advantages to displace smaller firms who, as Raman writes, "relied on their knowledge of local histories and relationships to assemble land for development". The effects went far beyond the three-acre plot near Marakkanan: newly visible master plans became used as "the reference point to label legal and illegal spaces and as a justification for evicting the poor from their economic and residential spaces." The "pro-poor" initiative turned out to be anything but. Tamil Nadu was not alone in running an open data project that made life harder for the poor; neighbouring Karnataka’s "Bhoomi" (or ‘land’) e-governance program has had similar effects....."

No comments: