In Digital Telangana, an online RTI portal is a far cry

Hyderabad: The Right to Information (RTI) Act in Telangana seems to be non-existent with no annual reports, no information commissioners and no online portal for filing RTIs. This is concerning as there is no way to demand transparency of government functions in Telangana Even though there has been a direction from the High Court of Telangana to build an online RTI filing portal, the state government seems to have completely ignored this direction. Activists and advocates have been approaching the High Court demanding an online RTI portal for years now and the IT Department has been positively replying, they will get the portal ready as early as possible. In May 2022, an RTI by Kareem Ansari of disclosed the portal is ready and is being tested with few departments, before it is made available to the public. Yet, almost after a year there is no portal for the public to access. In a state where every process has been digitised from marriage registration to building permissions, why is it that a simple Right to Information request can’t be filed online? The answer probably lies with the economic aspect of maintaining this portal as it is not a revenue generating process for the government and can actually create problems if citizens get access to information that can be used to hold the government accountable. As a digital society, where the government itself is forcing every form of technology on us to make governance easier under eGovernance initiatives, we haven’t seen technology essentially be used for accountability measures. It is clear when the state forces us to digitise, it is primarily motivated from economic incentives. But these don’t necessarily hold true for something like RTI, Archives or other forms of information services where there is no economic incentive for the state. In all fairness, the IT department did put some effort into publishing open data by launching a new initiative with an open data portal and a policy accessible at Although this is a proactive effort, this hasn’t been extended in practice across departments where we can demand data, algorithms and other digital resources as defined under section 2(f) of the RTI Act. With every form of governance digitised, it should be our right to demand information as already allowed under the RTI Act. Increased digitization has only created information asymmetry between citizens and the state. While the state has 360 degree profiles of citizens that it is creating and even sharing with police for surveillance, there is an information asymmetry with how much we can know about the state. These barriers are not just artificially created, they are also necessary for the state to not have any opposition to its actions. The Telangana IT Department has always promoted new technologies in the state to help the IT sector. If you can build something new, the state will become the first customer to help you promote your technology. This is not necessarily true for all forms of technologies out there, but specifically towards technologies that bring revenue. If you want to build a blockchain solution, the government of Telangana will gladly promote you through some regulatory push like making chit-funds listed on blockchain. But if you want the same with RTIs on a blockchain, then the government will not even think twice to reject the proposal. So what will it take to get an online portal for Good Governance, eGovernance or whatever brand words the Government wants to use for making an RTI portal available for the public of Telangana? Do we have to send a proposal to the IT secretary that we can build a chatGPT integrated RTI portal or an AI to replace the bureaucracy or mandatory Aadhaar for filing RTIs? What will it take for the citizens to have a simple governance system that they deserve? The answer is not the benevolence of the IT Secretary, Department or the Minister. Unless people demand this, it will not happen and it is unlikely the state is going to be accountable on its own. Srinivas Kodali is a researcher with interests in cities, data and the internet. (This article is shared under Creative Commons Attribution – No Derivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0)