New Delhi: Policy-making in India will be increasingly influenced by present and emerging technology, say thought-leaders across industry, government organizations, and academia. They believe that technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Analytics will help enhance the efficiency of policy-making processes and improve the quality of government decisions. This was a consensus of the expert panel at the JK Lakshmipat University (JKLU) hosted roundtable which discussed ‘The Role of Interest Groups and Civil Society in Policy Evolution.’ The session was organized by the Centre for Policy Studies, JKLU, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
The discussions highlighted the crucial roles played by interest groups and civil society in shaping policies and government action in strong democracies around the world. Surprisingly, in recent times they have played an important role even in countries with weaker democratic structures. Emerging technologies such as AI and Analytics have empowered these interest groups to overcome limits of geography, time and resources and consolidate data and information. The roundtable critically examined questions related to how the role of civil society and interest groups informing policy decisions have increased/ decreased over the years; how different stakeholders can engage more meaningfully, learning from global and also reviewed national examples and case studies on similar issues.
Mr. Ajay Shankar, Former Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in Govt. of India said “I have always believed that understanding of policies in India is an important part of education as it shares information with the youth of tomorrow, it has the power to bring change and make strong decision-making techniques. In this process, emerging technologies would be one of the major drivers for change in society and thus in the public sector.”
JKLU had invited thought-leaders across industry, government, and academia such as Ray La Raja, Associate Dean of College of Social and Behavioural Sciences, UMass Amherst; Sanjay Mitra, Former Defence Secretary and Chief Secretary of West Bengal, GOI; A Didar Singh, Former Secretary-General FICCI; Ajay Khanna, Former Deputy Director-General, Confederation of Indian Industries; Santosh Mehrotra, Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and many more. The roundtable was moderated by Mr. Ajay Shankar, Former Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in the Government of India.
Prof. Asheesh Gupta, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, JK Lakshmipat University said, “While you can involve a billion people in policymaking, devolution is very important where you give states more power to make decisions. If you let people make decisions at the community level then it’s easier for people to participate in the decision-making process. That is also why education is very important so that people know how to access information, use the information and participate in the process.”
Developed and progressive societies spend significant amounts of national income on health, education and social upliftment. Interest groups are able to increasingly keep the nuances of these issues alive and relevant in the national discourse using modern technology, enabling rapid collection and dissemination of information, significantly speeding up reactions of civil society and policy decision making.
The discussions also highlighted a large backlog of court cases as a major reason for delayed policy implementation. Repeated policy review petitions filed in lower courts and slow resolution of these cases are restricting the pace of economic development of the country. There was a consensus on the urgent need to rebuild trust among the different stakeholders in civic society, especially the groups present on online forums and social media with correct representation of facts and issues and transparency.
The Centre for Policy Studies has been launched by JK Lakshmipat University to promote dialogue, conduct research, and develop and publish actionable ideas on critical issues to inform policymaking in India. Mr. Ajay Shankar will be leading the Centre for Public Policy at JKLU. The Centre aims to host scholars, researchers, and thought-leaders round the year in addition to organizing roundtables and events.