Have you ever tried sifting facts from opinion in the news you read today? If you are a Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination aspirant, or someone preparing for an exam that requires a strong focus on general knowledge, you will know how hard this is. Here’s an app that solves this problem for those who need news, not views.
“It started with a very odd conversation. I was talking to a friend who was preparing for the civil service exams. He mentioned that the news he reads in India – online and in newspapers – is so full of opinions and the biases of the Left and Right, that it’s very difficult to get the basic facts of a story. And this is a problem for many people who are preparing for entrance examinations where general knowledge is very important,” says 27-year-old Rohit Pande.
Following this conversation, he and his friend, Shikhar Sachan, went ahead and developed an app to help UPSC aspirants and other such students prepare better for their exams.
Civilsdaily is an Android-based mobile application meant for people who consume news as a ‘need’ and not just a ‘want.’
It is basically a collection of flashcards that break down important news – minus the opinions and the jargon – into a fact-based format for people to understand easily.
“These days, getting your head around facts is very difficult. You don’t get the context but just a whole lot of opinions. There is a lot of noise. People who read the news need to understand the context in which it occurs. So we started curating news pieces into fact based pointers,” explains Rohit.
Shikhar and Rohit launched their app in March 2015.
The idea was simple. News items usually evolve from something that has occurred in the past or needs some kind of context. But most news items in the media do not provide that bit of information, possibly due to space constraints.
There is thus no context for people who actually need to learn something from the news, or even for the public in general.
“What we generally do is that we take the news that is in the day’s paper, cut off all the noise of opinions, bringing it down to factual points, and then post it on the app. Over time, when the theme of the news grows, we link all the related news cards together so that you can connect the dots. Thus, you get all major milestones connected in one single flashcard,” says Rohit.
For example, in the app there is a news card to explain India’s LED light campaign in four simple points. News about Indian birds entering the list of threatened species is explained in just five short and simple points – no views, no quotes, just pure facts.
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Rohit is a part of the three-member team working on this app. The team also works with some freelancers who contribute stories.
The app has been downloaded about 40,000 times to date and is updated every day, along with the Civilsdaily website. About 12-14 new stories come up in a day. Rohit says the conventional source for studying current affairs among most students is newspapers like The Hindu, Jagran, Indian Express, Mint, PIB, etc. So the team members use these sources to find trending news.
Then they curate them into simple facts.
Other than sifting facts from opinions, there is another unique aspect to Civilsdaily. The team also explains the news to people who may be completely uninformed about a particular topic. They do this with the help of infographics.
For example, if someone wants to know all about the India-Africa Forum Summit, he/she just has to click one link to get all the related new cards in one go.
But Rohit does not want this project to remain restricted to the web because this problem extends offline as well. So he wants to take the app to those educators and NGOs who are working with students from low-income families. He is talking to some of these organisations and plans to distribute compilations of new cards from every week in PDF format.
Rohit and his team are based in Delhi. In the past six months, they have received an amazing response from users of the app.
“People are using the app for a daily wrap up of the news. We have plugged a gap and plan to grow more now,” he states.
The team is operating with the help of an initial angel investment that has helped them grow and develop the app further. Rohit is an engineering graduate from IIT Guwahati. After working in a few consulting firms, he quit his job in October 2014 to work on the app.
“Education and technology have not been connected very well in India. So we put our heads together to find out how mobiles can help in solving a problem that needed attention. Our focus was on creating a minimal product that can be adopted easily…we are passionate about the subject and that is all that was needed” he concludes.
You can download the app here.