What’s in a Game?: The Politics of Shaping Property Tax Administration in Bangalore City, India

What’s in a Game?: The Politics of Shaping Property Tax Administration in Bangalore City, India

Shefali Virkar (University of Oxford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5071-8.ch003
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Much as been written about e-government within a growing stream of literature on ICT for development, generating countervailing perspectives where optimistic, technocratic approaches are countered by far more sceptical standpoints on technological innovation. This body of work is, however, not without its limitations: a large proportion is anecdotal in its style and overly deterministic in its logic, with far less being empirical, and there is a tendency for models offered up by scholarly research to neglect the actual attitudes, choices, and behaviour of the wide array of actors involved in the implementation and use of new technology in real organisations. Drawing on the theoretical perspectives of the Ecology of Games framework and the Design-Actuality Gap model, this chapter focuses on the conception and implementation of an electronic property tax collection system in Bangalore (India) between 1998 and 2008. The work contributes to not just an understanding of the role of ICTs in public administrative reform, but also towards an emerging body of research that is critical of managerial rationalism for an organization as a whole, and which is sensitive to an ecology of actors, choices, and motivations within the organisation.
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Simultaneous with the shift towards a more inclusive process of participation in political decision-making and public sector reform has been an increased interest in the new digital Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the ways in which they may be used to effectively complement and reform existing political processes. Developments in communication technologies have historically resulted in changes in the way in which governments function, often challenging them to find new ways in which to communicate and interact with their citizens, and ICTs today are seen to possess the potential to change institutions as well as the mechanisms of service delivery, bringing about a fundamental change in the way government operates and a transformation in the dynamic between government and its citizens (Misra, 2005).

e-Governance thus does not merely involve the insertion of computers and computer operators into an organisation, instead it involves the creation of systems wherein electronic Internet-enabled technologies are integrated with administrative processes, human resources, and the desire of public sector employees to dispense services and information to people fast and accurately. The concept thus consists of two distinct but intertwined dimensions– political and technical aspects relating to the improvement of public sector management capacity and citizen participation (Bhatnagar, 2003). Conceptually, e-Governance may be divided into e-Democracy, defined by the express intent to increase the participation of citizens in decision-making through the use of digital media, and e-Government, the use of Information and Communication Technologies by government departments and agencies to improve internal functioning and public service provision (Virkar, 2011a).

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