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Indian Gov't Official Turns Lens On Himself

BY Nick Judd | Monday, July 18 2011

A top government official in the Kerala state in the southwestern portion of India has launched a webcam in his office in an effort to create a culture of transparency, the New York Times' Vikas Bajaj reports.

Kerala's chief minister, Oommem Chandy, began the video feed of his office on July 1. Through last Friday afternoon, it had been visited by over 293,000 users, Bajaj writes. But he also collects the insight of a critic who points out that corruption in India is more common in bureaucratic outposts than anywhere else:

Sunil Abraham, the executive director of the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore, said he applauded Mr. Chandy’s webcams, even if the effort amounted to no more than tokenism.

“This type of tokenism is also quite useful,” said Mr. Abraham, predicting it might check the behavior of not only the chief minister, but also his underlings and the powerful executives and politicians who come to visit him.

Of course, he noted, if people are intent on paying bribes, they could probably still do it outside the office.

India's government was expected to participate in a multilateral partnership on open goverment announced last week, but had withdrawn from the partnership's leadership committee by the time its membership was made public. A top civil society organization in that country, however, is still participating in a leadership role.

The world's largest democracy, Indian government is known both for occurrences of corruption and waste and for efforts to fight it, especially through technology.

(With Becky Kazansky)