Jan 6, 2021

Big Tech, AI, COVID-19, Climate & more



Hope you're all well and safe.

So much has happened in the past 8-ish months at Tandem - we’ve set up new research initiatives, added new members to our team, released major research reports, experimented with a gazillion remote working applications, and attended more webinars than we can count. More importantly, though, the past eight months have provided daily lessons in patience, resilience, and kindness.

Here are a few highlights:


A Balancing Act: The Promise and Peril of Big Tech in India
We examined the ways in which Big Tech companies are shaping India's digital economy and society, and the policy pathways needed to align Big Tech trajectories with individual freedoms and societal well-being. There are a few explainer videos and a microsite to accompany the report. Dr. Shashi Tharoor gave the keynote address at an online event to release the report, followed by a panel discussion between Ankhi Das, Dr Samir Saran, Dr Geeta Gouri, Liz Carolan.

AI on the Ground: A Snapshot of AI use in India
In this report, we review 70+ use cases of AI across key social sectors in India, including policing, agriculture, health, and education. Earlier this month, we organised a webinar 'Can Excel Sheets have Ethics? Responsible AI for India'- Angelina shared some of our research on AI, followed by a panel discussion between 5 leading voices from industry, academia, and civil society.

Angelina, Joanne and Harsh did an extensive review of 80+ COVID19 Tech Tools for Public Health across multiple parameters, such as data protection and accountability mechanisms. Building on our Covid-19 trackers, Mawii and Iona examined the impact of the pandemic on gig workers in this piece for Bot Populi. We also did a preliminary study of the COVID-19 pandemic on women platform workers in India; developed a COVID19 - Information Campaign for Gig Workers; and conducted a survey of migrant workers in Goa.

Anticipatory Governance of Emerging Technologies
Vikrom collaborated with leading academics to think about frameworks for the governance of emerging technologies. In the paper Anticipatory governance of solar geoengineering: Conflicting visions of the future & their links to governance proposals, we explored how different governance proposals for solar geoengineering technologies were linked to plural imaginaries of the future of climate crises.

AI for Healthcare: Insights from India
This paper, by Urvashi and Claire Munoz Parry (Chatham House), describes some of the main opportunities and challenges of using AI in healthcare. It then turns to a case study of AI for healthcare in India, discussing key applications, challenges and risks.


Project Urban Living Lab (PULL)
We set up India’s first Urban Living Lab in Panjim (PULL) - a collaborative space for incubating and co-creating solutions to complex urban challenges. PULL will provide a platform for city residents, governments, private actors and knowledge institutions to design, test and fine-tune socio-technical innovation in the ‘real-life’ laboratory of cities and neighbourhoods. We organized Cycles4Changeto re-imagine urban mobility and conducted workshops with Forest Department, Educators and Town & Country Planning Department on urban ecology. Learn more here.

Human Choice & Climate Change (H3C)
We launched India’s first dedicated program of social science and humanities research on climate change. Despite mounting scientific evidence, action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build societal resilience to climate change is low. Collective choices made by individuals, families, communities, firms and governments will shape our climate futures. How do we alter politics, norms, attitudes and incentives to act? This is the question we will seek to answer in our program of research and action.

We started a monthly research seminar - Talks@Tandem - where we invite scholars to present their recent research on India's technology and society transitions. Check out the playlist here.


We submitted a response to consultation documents for a Non-Personal Data Governance Framework and National Open Digital Ecosystems ( NODE)

Along with the Centre for Internet and Society, we drafted a charter of recommendations for government and platform companies to safeguard worker safety and well-being during the pandemic. This was sent to platform companies and several state and national government representatives.

We also endorsed a petition by the Internet Freedom Foundation on Representation to protect privacy, autonomy and dignity of workers during COVID-19 outbreak’; and contributed to a petition by an Alliance of Labor Unions and Civil society organisations on worker rights.

PULL is working closely with policy makers in Panjim, including Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited, the Forest Department and the Town and Country Planning Department to shape city level policies on data, urban ecology, mobility and climate resilience.


Our report 'A Balancing Act: The Promise and Peril of Big Tech in India' was mentioned in 20+ media publications, including the Economic Times, Bloomberg Quintand the Times of India. Urvashi was quoted in articles on Big Tech in LiveMint and the Economic Times. Urvashi also wrote an op-ed for the Economic times on How to check Facebook's influence on Indian democracy

Urvashi was also quoted in Vice, Huffington Post, Deccan Herald and Reuters on the impact of the pandemic on gig workers and growing surveillance in the workplace. She was also quoted in Reuters on the privacy and surveillance concerns associated with Covid-Tech. Mawii was also quoted in the Huffington post on her work on the gig economy.

Our survey on Migrant workers in Goa was covered in the Times of India, and Mawii and Iona also wrote an op-ed for the Herald, Goa. Our report on Tech Tools for Covid-19was also quoted in Economic Times and Reuters.

PULL’s Cycles4Change event was covered by the Times of India and Herald. And Hema's article on the Hyderabad Floods was featured in NewsClick.


  • Urvashi spoke at the ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020 ( RAISE) on a panel on Responsible AI, and the Future of Work. She also led a discussion at the Carnegie India 2020 Global Technology Summit on Regulating Digital Markets, and spoke at the Thomson Reuters Foundation's Trust Conference 2020 on a panel on Covid-19, Technology and Democracy.
  • We organised two sessions at RightsCon 2020, 'Shrinking Civic Space in a Digital Age: Are Funders and Researchers Ready?' and 'Can excel sheets have ethics? AI in the Global South’. Watch the sessions here.
  • Vikrom chaired and spoke at ORF’s 'The Future of Food: Reimagining Resilient Food Systems in a post-pandemic world’ and 'Green Himalayas', a panel on the challenges of preserving the fragile ecologies in the Himalayan region.
  • Vikrom also spoke at 'From Ship to Coast: Blue Economy and Sustainable Livelihood', a workshop conducted by DWIH New Delhi and the German Maritime Museum.
  • We organised the 'Women in the platform economy: Access, Autonomy and Agency' session at IGF 2020 with CIS India.
  • Iona Eckstein presented ‘Data Collection Practices and Emerging Risks for Low Wage Workers in India' at 'Shaping the 2020s: Symposium for Workers' Future in Asia’
  • Urvashi spoke on Chatham House's podcast 'Undercurrents' on 'India's COVID-19 Tracing App, and the Media's Pandemic Response’; the Suno India podcast episode 'Digital Pipe Dreams' where she discussed the National Open Digital Ecosystem.; a podcast on Cyber Democracy: Labour Rights Violations and Surveillance with Tech; and on Big Tech for a podcast from the National University of Singapore.


Delighted to welcome Amrita, Ashali, Karthikeyan, Charu and Hema to the Tandem team! Amrita is with our AI program, Charu has joined our Future of Work team and Ashali, Karthikeyan, and Hema have joined our Future Cities team.

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays from the Tandem team, and our two Chiefs of Cheer - Pluto and Lilly! Stay safe, stay well, and please wear your mask.

We look forward to hearing from you!
Connect with us at hello@tandemresearch.org and follow us on
Twitter @tandem_research


Urvashi Aneja

Urvashi studies the politics, social impacts, and ethics of technology transitions in the global south. She has written extensively on the challenges and risks of AI in India, the emerging gig economy and labor well-being, data governance and gender and technology. She has served on government committees for artificial intelligence and frontier technologies. Urvashi is also an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Tech and Social justice champion at the World Economic Forum, and a former member of the T20 Task Force for the Future of Work in the G20. She regularly writes for national media publications and has been quoted in the BBC, Reuters, CNBC, Times of India, and Indian Express, among others. Previously she was a Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and Associate Professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs. Urvashi has a Doctorate from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Oxford

Vikrom Mathur

Vikrom believes that interdisciplinary research on cultural attitudes towards nature and technology need to inform contemporary debates on societal futures. His research interests include the governance of emerging technologies, social and cultural dimensions of technological transitions, cultural perceptions of environmental risk, dynamics between science and policy, and Cultural Theory. He is currently setting up India’s first Urban Living Lab in Panjim as a platform to design, test and fine-tune socio-technical innovation in local urban spaces. He has a PhD from the Institute of Science, Society, and Innovation at the University of Oxford.


Feb 14, 2020

Urvashi Aneja & Vikrom Mathur

New Research and Announcements!