The Village Says “No”: Why Online ADR is Not (Yet) Working in Rural India
This paper argues that online dispute resolution (ODR) has not been readily accepted in India’s rural hinterlands. This field study involved a trip to a “typical rural village” in North India with a population of approximately 3,000 people. Barriers to acceptance include IT literacy and connectivity, English language platforms and learning resources, reliance on and preference for village-based dispute-resolution systems, mistrust of external authority, lack of awareness of the benefits of ODR, and gender and cultural issues. We find that some villagers may be interested in ODR, but its adaption requires not only outlining the advantages of ODR but also creating a sense of ownership and managing resistance to outsiders. This could be done by providing training to groups likely to benefit from ODR, including youth, women, and NGOs. The case study also has theoretical implications for the study of comparative access to legal services, the relationship between concepts of rights and local concepts of morality, and for the persistence of social structure and “traditional” means of dispute resolution despite the possibility of access to “modern” forms of legal services.