Saturday, October 10, 2015

An app to make democracy better

I have an app idea to improve our rusty Indian democracy using crowd-sourcing, but I don't have enough time to prioritize it and actually build it. So I am posting this in public domain for someone to take it up and build it. Don't worry, I won't claim any credit.

The problem
We cast our vote in the elections assuming our elected representatives will work for us and make our daily lives better. For the taxes we pay, we expect better roads, good public transport, easily available drinking water, good quality govt. schools and hospitals, reasonably priced ration, helpful police force and all the other required social infrastructure that is government's duty to provide in lieu of all our taxes. This is an ideal democracy. We are still very far from it.

What can an app do to fix this?
An app can do wonders. Consider the following use cases:
1. The road in your colony is broken badly. You take your phone, launch an app, click the big red 'Report an issue' button with an exclamation mark. App starts the camera, you point the phone cam to the road and click the pic. App fetches your GPS co-ordinates (this is a key point). You optionally choose a category (e.g. Transportation) and add some description and submit it.
2. There is a walled area labelled park in your colony. But inside there is a thick growth of shrubs, and no jogging track or children play amenities. What kind of park is that? You use the app to report the issue with a pic and GPS co-ordinates.
3. You go to apply for a driving license. Lunch is from 1 to 1:30 PM but the guy at the counter left at 12:30 for lunch and you need to wait in the queue till 2:30PM or whenever he comes from his home. He is an arrogant a-hole and thinks that this job his his father's jageer. He needs to be taught a lesson. Pull the app, put a picture with missing guy's blank chair and wall clock with time in the background, report the issue.
4. You are in a market and see that the local police is extracting hafta from the shop-cart owners. When the policemen go away (yeah, stay safe), pull up your phone report the issue. Then tell the shop owners too to do the same with their phones.
5. You went to some govt. office and you anticipate you will be asked for bribe. Launch the app and it will record the audio, attach GPS co-ordinates and put it live for the world to see.

So what after I report an issue?
Imagine millions of Indians reporting their daily issues. We will have a huge database of issues now with proofs, all of which can be neatly seen on a map, panned and zoomed; seen with heatmaps, seen categorized by constituency and seen categorized by departments. Most of these might contain proofs in terms of pictures. We can browse and visualize this data in multiple innovative ways. We can compare MLAs across constituencies, we can compare states. We can figure out whether our MLA or MP is working or not and whether he/she should be given a second term. Vigilance department can act swiftly

What about the addressed issues?
Once a govt. servant marks an issue as addressed and puts a justification, it needs to be reviewed and approved by the complainer or by a fixed number of people in the vicinity of that area.

I have scratched the surface, now if you are really serious about it, spend sometime thinking about it and implementing it in the right way.