Researcher: Jason C. Wong, PhD Student in Sustainable Development

In developing countries, public services are inadequately provided. One of the major causes of poor public service delivery is poor governance. However, governance is a multi-stakeholder relation: the public employees and the citizen clients interact in providing a public service. A lack of incentives for citizen participation and monitoring could be a major cause for poor electricity supply in rural areas. Field experiments provide insights into whether meaningful effects on public service delivery can be achieved through improved citizen participation and accountability of bureaucrats. In many instances, including health and education, participatory or informational campaigns greatly improved accountability and the service outcomes.

This project is a first-step towards a larger experimental design to investigate whether information and deliberation within a village could increase citizen action through the form of complaints, which in turn could lead to improved quality of electricity outcomes in rural India. This research seeks to understand a mechanism of vertical accountability by investigating how villagers perceive current electricity supply, what the chain of command is in the rural electricity utility organization, and how willing officials are to take action to address complaints. The project enabled interviews with utility stakeholders and households in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The study seeks to confirm whether complaints work in prompting utility stakeholders to take action, and what the deficiencies in the (potential) undersupply of complaints and citizen monitoring are. This project furthers our understanding of the relationship between information, participation and electricity delivery in rural areas.