Celebrating 2023’s Graduates

2nd July, 2023 saw CITAPP research scholars draw a curtain on the chapter of their lives as students of IIIT Bangalore. Here is a glimpse of their work.

Oindrila Matilal, PhD Scholar, under the supervision of Prof. Janaki Srinivasan

Uninterruptible Childcare, Interruptible Career Progression: A Case of Women in the Software Services Sector in India during COVID-19

Abstract: Women, especially mothers, have historically been associated with home-based telework in the context of narratives on work-life balance and flexitime. With this working arrangement becoming widespread during COVID-19, accounts appeared in firm and popular media reports that celebrated how mothers could now resolve conflicts between professional work and childcare more easily and enter/stay back in the Indian workforce in greater numbers. Not only did such reports gloss over the issue of women’s position in the workforce, an issue that continues to be a problem globally as well as in India, but they also camouflaged the variety in how women experience and respond to professional work time and childcare. Moving away from such essentialising approaches that treat women as a unitary, biological category, I adopt a practice-based approach that looks at how women’s experiences are shaped by the ongoing accomplishment of gender [Martin, 2003, West and Zimmerman, 1987]. Adopting the epistemic position of feminist standpoint theory, I conduct in-depth longitudinal interviews with women to look at how they negotiate the time demands of professional work and childcare through their everyday practices and how these negotiations shape their position in the workforce.

I focus on the experiences of women with children under six years, working in the software services sector in Bangalore, India. In terms of introducing diversity policies and telework, the software services sector represents a ”leading edge of change” and an appropriate case to evaluate what is ”actually going on” [Schofield, 2000] in a context that claims to be female-friendly. I find that women respond to the conflict between professional working time and childcare by enacting six types of practices which I term total synchronicity, partial synchronicity, bounded synchronicity, asynchronous availability, proxy synchronicity and fragmented synchronicity. While these practices enable women to resolve immediate conflicts between professional work time and childcare, they do not automatically lead to career progression. Career progression is stalled when women anticipate a conflict between the schedules of professional work and the uninterruptible schedules of childcare that they engage in.

To explain this anticipation of conflict, I propose an extended version of Joan Acker’s concept of gendered identity formation through ”the internal mental work of individuals as they consciously construct their understandings of the organization’s gendered structure of work and opportunity and the demands for gender-appropriate behaviors and attitudes” [Acker, 1990, Acker, 2006]. In explaining the ”internal mental work” of individuals, the extended version takes into consideration an individual’s internalization of gender norms that originate outside the relations of professional work. I also extend Acker’s theory by showing how women’s position in the workforce can be negatively affected not only when policies and practices are based on the idea that childcare is irreconcilable with professional working time but also when they are based on the idea that childcare is reconcilable with professional working time but uninterruptible childcare is carried out by women. By identifying new mechanisms through which gendered ideas about professional work time and childcare shape women’s career trajectories, and by extending Joan Acker’s concept of ”gendered identity formation” [Acker, 1992, Acker, 2001]my dissertation contributes to the fields of gender and organization studies. My recommendations for policy, practice and technology design have practical implications for dealing with women’s under-representation in senior positions in the workforce.

Arvind Upreti, PhD Scholar, under the supervision of Prof. V.Sridhar

Analysis of the Dynamics of Task Automation and Its Effect on the Labour Market

Abstract: Automation and its broader socio-economic effects have been a subject of human curiosity and debate. The growth of autonomous systems in contemporary society is stimulated by intense academic research and growing investments in computer algorithms, data, and computing infrastructure. The choices made by firms to automate tasks can affect the labor market outcomes in complex ways. This thesis aims to answer the research question concerning the effects of the diffusion of task automation on the employment of workers in the labor market. The research, with its theoretical underpinnings in complex adaptive systems, follows the methodology of agent-based modeling. The analytical findings are supported empirically using datasets on occupation-specific descriptors sourced from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), U.S. Department of Labor, and occupational transitions data sourced from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The occupation mobility pathway structure and behavioral rules of firms and workers in the IT services industry are developed using the empirical data gathered through semi-structured interviews and vignette surveys. The dissertation work has been organized into three parts. The first part models the effect of the automation of routine and non-routine tasks and its effect on low and high-skilled workers. The second part models the retraining of displaced workers as an adjustment process in the labor market and investigates its effect on the finance and insurance industry. The third part builds an empirical model of the labor market in the IT services industry through semi-structured interviews and vignette surveys with experts in the industry. One of the novel contributions of this thesis is the formulation of an occupation pathway structure that represents the adaptation behavior of displaced workers to retrain and redeploy in the labor market. The work also proposes a taxonomy of task characteristics that indicate their proclivity for automation in the IT services industry. The findings in this thesis provide a framework for policymakers to analyze the occupation mobility pathways for displaced workers to enhance employment and reduce wage inequality.

Meera Muthukrishnan, M.S. (by Research) scholar under the supervision of Prof. Bidisha Chaudhuri

Making Data Infrastructures in Public Service Delivery: A Case Study of a Mental Health Management System in India

Abstract: Large-scale digital data infrastructures are increasingly being included in the delivery of public services in India, especially in the area of health care. Making these infrastructures, which are found pervasively in our societies, is a very dynamic, complex, and gradual process. These socio-technical systems that seek to get embedded in the large installed base of existing public health care infrastructure are not just designed by professionals in a planned design phase and used by practitioners exactly as envisaged by the designers. They undergo a long and slow process of infrastructuring post
their launch in the real world. The practitioners who use the solution continue the design process as they use it. With their everyday practices influenced by various social, economic, political, cultural, and organizational factors, they shape the data infrastructure continually. Taking the case of the emerging data infrastructure of a Mental Health Management System deployed in a state in India, I examine how the in-situ design practices of the clinical module that captures the electronic health record of the out-patients shape the emerging data infrastructure and to what implications. I use the conceptual
framework of infrastructuring to map the various stakeholders and their roles in the system, and situate their practices in the gateway phase of the data infrastructure. I find through my study that a) the routine practices have an impact on the inclusions and exclusions of beneficiaries in the data infrastructure and on the quality of data collected about them, and b) data consumers beyond the context of its everyday use may not be ble to draw meaningful insights without the knowledge of the contexts and politics of data production. Overall, I aim to highlight the highly relational and contested nature of data infrastructures and how, far from being objective and neutral information repository, they are products of shared social practices that further shape our ways of knowing and accessing public services.

CITAPP at IIIT Bangalore is an interdisciplinary think-tank set-up to focus on the policy challenges and the organizational demands made by technological innovation. Of particular interest to the Centre is how technological advances, along with institutional changes that harness the legitimacy and the powers of bureaucracies and market, address the needs of underserved communities.