Feb 14, 2020

New Research and Announcements!

Newsletter #03 / January 2020

Good newsletters have themes, apparently. The state of the Republic is probably most appropriate. But that deserves a separate conversation. Yet, nothing else seems as relevant or urgent. So, instead, here are a few words that describe our priorities, and how they have grown, as we celebrate three years of Tandem Research.

Y3. Relevance.Method
Y2. Team.Money
Y1. Optimism.Vision

Here's a round up of some key highlights from 2019 and plans for 2020.

When we started our Artificial Intelligence & Society initiative in early 2018, we were often asked if there is any AI deployment at all in India. Fast forward to today, automated facial recognition systems (AFRS) are being used by the police, railways, and even for voter verification. We urgently need to develop governance frameworks relevant to the Indian context, based on empirical evidence of AI use in India. We recently argued for the need to ban the use of AFRS, not just regulate their use, as they undermine the foundations of a participatory democracy.

In 2019, building on our AI for All series, where we identified 10 Social Conundrums for India, we held three policy labs on the impact of AI for democracy; education andcities. We also carried out a landscape study of AI use in India, identifying over 170 use cases in nine key sectors. In March this year, we are organizing a workshop in Delhi to share and deliberate these findings - the reports will be out soon as well - stay tuned for more!

This year we will do a deeper dive into select use-cases in agriculture, health, policing, and fin-tech, to understand issues around data, design, and equity. Some exciting new partnerships in the works !

We also looked at the role of Big Tech in India. Less than a decade ago, technology giants like Facebook and Twitter were celebrated for enabling freedom; today critics argue they are undermining democracy. What does Big Tech mean for India? How does the India story depart from global narratives? Our report will be out soon! ( 2019, as you might have gathered, has been a time for research - this year we publish :))

A major highlight of the year were the two round tables we organized for Members of Parliament, on the uses and risks of AI in India, and Big Tech in India. Another highlight was the Speculative Fictionworkshop we organized at Rights Con on AI in the Global South. We will be further exploring story telling as a tool for policy and public engagement this year.

Much of our research in 2019 focused on the platform economy. With partners in South Africa and Argentina, we examined how digital platforms are recasting informality in the global south. Our study on India examined worker wellbeing on ride-hailing and home service platforms in New Delhi and proposed a framework for platform responsibilities toward workers. We also looked at a job aggregator in India; an on-demand platform in South Africa; an information-sharing platform in Myanmar; and online support forums for workers on micro-work platforms.

In 2020, we will look specifically at women on India’s digital work platforms - implications for access to work, well being, financial security, and changing social relationships. This builds on our ongoing work on Feminist Perspective on the Future of Work in India and Asia. We are also starting two new projects - on digital technologies and worker surveillance; and reputation systems on platforms.


We also went to Sri Lanka! Our report with the ILO on the impact of emerging technologies on the future world of work was released by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. We continue our work on Sri Lanka this year, looking at green jobs and sustainability; the platformization of tourism, and the care economy.

We also served as a knowledge partner to Niti Aayog in drafting its strategy paper on ‘Roadmap for Development of Digital Talent in India’.. Our most sustained and direct engagement with the policy process thus far. Much to learn about the dynamics of multiple actors and policy coalitions in the digital space.

In March this year, we will host a two day research workshop on the Future of Work and Workers, with IIITB in Bangalore, to bring together interdisciplinary research on the changing world of work. Do get in touch if you would like to share your work!

Big announcement! We are setting up India’s first Urban Living Lab, in Panjim, through an exciting collaboration with Oxford Policy Management, TERI and Smart City Panjim, and supported by the Danish government. This will be a co-learning and doing space, at the interface of sustainability, technology and society - bringing together researchers, citizens, and the private sector. Stay tuned to this space for more updates.

This will feed into our ongoing work on the future of mid-sized cities in India, which are growing rapidly in number. How are factors of climate change, technological transformations, demographic shifts, and resource scarcity likely to influence the future of mid-sized cities in India? This builds on our earlier work on climate variability and marginalized communities. How do socioeconomic markers impact vulnerability and adaptability in relation to climate change?

We held our first Monsoon Academy in 2019! Our first academy focused on Planning for Climate Resilience in Urban Areas, bringing together researchers and practitioners from South Asia. In partnership with Global Climate Adaptation Partnership, UK.

We envision our Monsoon Academies as spaces for peer-learning, bringing together researchers and practitioners for a three-day retreat in Goa, around a specific theme. This year we are hosting two Monsoon Academies - on AI & Social Justice; and Feminist Methods.

We look forward to hearing from you!
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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.


Jan 6, 2021

Urvashi Aneja & Vikrom Mathur

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