A pothole down the road, a non-functional street light, a pile of garbage not picked up for over a week? The Swachh Bharat Clean India Mobile App lets you report these problems to the Prime Minister himself.
Life in India is certainly not very comfortable on a day-to-day basis. Rich or poor, the moment we get out of our homes, we are plagued with civic problems of the kind not seen in most developed countries. Add to this our own habits of throwing garbage in public places, spitting on walls and streets, breaking and vandalizing public property and the picture becomes gloomier. The Prime Minster launched the Swachh Bharat mission soon after assuming office to help bring India on par with other smart and clean countries around the world.
In support of the PM’s mission, an ordinary citizen named Mahek Shah launched the Swachh Bharat Clean India Mobile App in September 2014.
This app not only enables ordinary citizens to report civic problems to the municipal and government authorities, but brings the issues to the notice of the PM himself.
“I was always active when it comes to governance. I would file complaints, bring issues to notice, reach out to ministers, etc. Hence, the idea of the app came into the picture,” says Shah.
The app enables users to click pictures concerning their problems and send the same to the Prime Minister’s Office via Twitter.
The user has to log in through Twitter if he/she wants to report a problem. Though Twitter is used by only a certain section of the community and not everyone has a Twitter account, Shah believes that the government is much more active on Twitter than any other platform.
“It is better to have less number of complaints filed and get them resolved rather than posting on a platform where they aren’t even read. The PMO profile on Twitter is very active and responsive. Hence, we have designed the app this way,” Shah explains.
Once a photo is clicked, the app automatically finds its location using Google Maps and an auto generated tweet is sent to the PMO. So all a person has to do to make a complaint is to click a picture.
The app has other interesting features apart from reporting. These include live updates from the Swachh Bharat Mission across the country, videos and tutorials on spot-fixing, the ability to view or create Swachh Bharat spot-fixing events happening around the country, the ability to browse and view their Facebook page which shares more information on spot fixing by individual groups or information shared by gram panchayats and zilla parishads. Users can access the other features of the app without a Twitter login.
Though platforms like Facebook have more users and visibility, using Twitter was a deliberate choice by Shah.
“When it comes to filing complaints, people tend to write long essay like texts. But Twitter has a limit of 140 characters. Here a photo does all the talking and also reduces the workload.”
– Mahek Shah
The app has been downloaded by 12,000 smartphone users, out of which 5,000 are actively using it.
The photos which are uploaded are monitored by Shah, as many people upload same photos repetitively and some of them are even fakes.
Three hundred reports have been filed so far using this app and out of these 180 are genuine reports. So far, more than 15 issues have been resolved.
So, when the issues are of concerns to local bodies, why reach out to the PM?
“In India, I have realized that things work better in a top-down manner. Faster action is taken. The issues are still resolved by the local municipality but the only difference is they are brought to notice in a better way,” he says.
In spite of an interesting model and fast action, getting people to use the app has been a challenge for Shah. “People are not tech savvy and apart from a few who know the power of technology, not many people are open to new ideas like this,” he says.
Shah is hopeful that more people will utilize this platform for good. In the future, Shah wants to develop yet another app to resolve the garbage issue in the country.
Shah is currently working on an app called “I need a dustbin”, where people can ask the municipality to provide public dustbins in the areas they find necessary.
“The majority of people who throw garbage on the street say that they do so because there aren’t dustbins around nearby. So, by using this app they can click a photo of the garbage filled street or corner and demand a dustbin from the municipality,” he says.
As Shah is on a mission for a cleaner India, we hope more people will come forward to share their concerns and get their issues resolved. According to Shah, the version 1 of app is open-sourced – anyone can pick up the code from github and clone it to make a local version.
The app can be downloaded from the Google Store. It is an Android app. To know more about the app, check out www.swachhbharatapp.com.