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Empowerment through Computers
by Satya Prakash
Issue 11
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It would only be a slight exaggeration if I say that today computers have become as ubiquitous as air, if only we could see it. The use of computers in many ways have revolutionized our world and introduced radical changes. Some of the effects are direct and can be seen easily but there are several other indirect effects which have cascaded deep down our society.

One such change brought about due to use of computers is accessibility of information. Computers have removed the information asymmetry, made it available to all with minimal delay and cost. Information is basis of empowerment consequently all the sections of our society have been empowered in proportion to the information dissemination

The most visible impact of empowerment has been seen between citizens and its Government. An empowered citizen is one who is aware of all the fundamental rights bestowed by the government of the land and also the opportunity to exercise those rights in totality without any obstruction. It also includes free access to the required levels of government and two way information exchanges. This type of governance is also referred as E-governance.

With E-governance becoming the norm, numerous layers of bureaucracy has been removed. Gone are the days when information used to be with only few privileged, resulting in lot of unfair advantages. Today any citizen can interact directly with the top echelons of government and get the information. The communication has also improved, today one need not walk through the corridors of power to get audience with the ministers, a simple email is enough. All of this has translated the right to freedom of expression and freedom of information to actuality.

Various processes have been streamlined resulting in greater efficiency and transparency. Planning and decision making has vastly improved. The receding layer of bureaucracy has also resulted in dropping levels of corruption and reduced the lead time for taking decision. Due to computers information has become accessible, understandable, has given people means to communicate and participate in policy making processes for improving their life.

With the help of computers many services can be facilitated anywhere and anytime leading to improved citizen relationship. This enhanced two way information exchange has also made possible efficient micromanagement of state's affair, which was earlier not possible due to volume of transactions involved. It has bridged the urban-rural, gender and many other divisions of society.

Recent examples have shown how with little innovation and use of computers the benefits can cascade down. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Rita, US government distributed smart cards to many of those affected. This smart card was loaded with a fixed amount of money and could be used in the stores for buying food items, grocery, etc. Just imagine how difficult would have been to disburse money through conventional methods.

Computers worldwide has helped governments advance the agenda of governance, reforms, transparency, corruption and all this has contributed to empowerment of citizens.


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