Home » Featured, Pune City, punetech » Can we use technology to solve some of Pune’s problems?

The best way to stay in touch with PuneTech and associated activities is to subscribe and receive most recent updates in your email inbox or via RSS. And, if you are looking for special interest groups, Click here. See our About Page to find out more about what PuneTech is.

Like to chat with PuneTech's founder? Connect now!

Can we use technology to solve some of Pune’s problems?

Click on the logo to get all PuneTech articles about PuneTech

A few weeks ago, we had asked our readers, “How to increase community participation in the Pune tech scene?”, and we received a huge number of very interesting suggestions. Please read the comments on that article for the full list of suggestions. We have decided that over the next few weeks, we will put up individual posts highlighting some of those suggestions, and asking for feedback on how best to take this forward.

Unmesh Mayekar, of SadakMap, made this suggestion:

Start a series on PuneTech where everyday problems (plaguing Pune) are taken and an attempt is made to address them using technology.

Essentially, someone poses a problem (e.g. uncoordinated traffic lights) and puts forward an attempt at solving this problem. PuneTech community debates the feasibility and if it stands the test interested folks come together to take it further. A sponsor willing to put their name (and some moolah) behind the approved initiatives would round this off well.

We are techies. Technology is our strength. So it makes sense that we try to find ways in which we can use technology to solve issues. Granted that technology isn’t always a solution to problems, but it can be a part of the solution, especially if we team up with others (non-techies) who are domain experts. Often, domain experts who are working on a problem at the grassroots are not technologically savvy, and hence are not able to leverage technology well, and a little technology boost can significantly improve the impact of their efforts. This is where we can help.

What is the best method of taking this idea forward? As Unmesh indicated, we can start a series on PuneTech itself where the problems and proposed tech solutions are posed and voted upon. Or we could create a separate, more specialized package that is better at keeping track of votes (if you have good experiences with any such open source package, then let us know in the comments).

What other things do we need to take care of to ensure that this is successful? One thing I strongly feel is that every idea needs an “owner” who is willing to give non-trivial amounts of time for that idea for the first few months. I believe that the number of people intersted in an idea looks like this:

After the initial hype, where a number of people show interest, there comes “the dip” when people back out for various reasons (or just stop responding), and then only a few people are left (in some cases, just the “owner”). It is necessary that the idea owner continues working on the idea and making progress during this time, so that they can come out of the dip towards success. For that, you need to be passionate about the idea, and you should be clear that there will be a chunk of time when you are working on the idea alone. Basically, what I am saying is that you cannot depend upon “community participation”, especially in the early months.

So, every project needs a passionate “owner”.

What else?

Please give all your ideas, suggestions, feedback in the comments below.

If you liked this post, subscribe for updates by email or via RSS.

Comments

25 responses to Can we use technology to solve some of Pune’s problems?

  1. Mahesh Sharma says:

    Hi,
    I do follow Anupam Saraph’s blog. He always has something intresting with a keen-technology prespective to solve problems.

    His recent post was on the containing H1N1.
    More here:
    http://anupamsaraph.blogspot.com/2009/08/containing-h1n1.html

    I guess, it will be great to have him on-board!

    • navin says:

      @Mahesh, Anupam’s involvement almost goes without saying. He is always enthusiastic about such community efforts and happy to give his suggestions, guidance and pointers to people who can help with specific projects. I’m sure he is on board already.

  2. Dear Members,

    We are a group of professionals from diverse domains of technology collaborating on social projects with an aim to “use technology for the betterment of mankind”.

    In a progressive India there is a digital divide that need to be filled so that the privileges of technology can reach the grassroots at a social level. Internet and technology have shrunk the globe yet a majority do not benefit from it for several reasons. Primarily, adapting to change has been difficult due to the traditional practice and fear.

    Our deliberations deduce that Technology is not effectively understood that it be applied by the commoner to their daily life. Our concern is not just about conveniences of facilities and services but reaching the humanitarian voice to initiate CHANGE. Everyone has a VOICE and most dies as a mumble; unnoticed and unaided

    Regards,

    Darshan Patel.PMP
    CEO, PATELCAN
    Mobile: +91 997 005 2888 (Pune)
    +1 513 442 3099 (USA)

    Blgos:
    http://www.patelcan.com
    http://sapcan.blogspot.com/
    http://dkcan.blogspot.com/

    Profiles:
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/dkpcan
    http://www.google.com/profiles/dkpcan

    IM:
    Yahoo, Gtalk, SkyPe: dkpcan
    Hotmail: darshan22

    • navin says:

      @Darshan, I got a little lost in the various website links that you provided. As far as tech projects that can help Pune, do you have a specific suggestion for a project that the community can undertake?

  3. Here’s a specific case I have been mulling over.

    Problem: curb pollution by tracking polluting vehicles

    Applying Technology: We have all seen vehicles spewing black fumes and wondered how they could have ever passed the PUC tests. The idea is to create a way for citizens to report such obvious violators. So if you see a “public” vehicle (transport vehicles, PMPML, autos, taxis, etc) you simply SMS the vehicle number (there are a number of providers such as SMSGupshup that can be used to implement this). The sytem will collate all this information and make the list of violators available ordered by the number of times that vehicle was reported. So if 3 different folks report a PMPML bus it would make it to the top of the list.

    The big question is what happens next. Hopefully, this list can then be fed to the RTO for further action.

  4. Hi Navin,

    Thanks for the Reply, In Patelcan we have started following projects which can be supported by community.

    1. Kidzfest-YouthFest: Educational seminars at Schools.
    2. Punecan – Green Pune Clean Pune

    Please visit http://www.dkcan.com

    Regards,

    DARSHAN

  5. Followup to my previous comment – “privately owned vehicles” are not usually the culprit. The Rs. 1000/- fine for a PUC violation is enough of a scare and most private owners care enough for their vehicles to keep their vehicles tuned. So only “public vehicles” need to be reported.

  6. Amit Singh says:

    navin check out tinypug, and see if that can server the purpose. http://code.google.com/p/tinypug/

  7. I think there are many areas where technology can be a good enabler. However, like all business IT projects – pure technology is never the answer! You need buy-in and process owners to drive the change/solution.

    Assuming this is going to happen, technology can help across the board. Here are a few I can think of:

    1. Issues reporting and tracking that is publicly visible to everyone. E.g. Reporting on obvious issue like ‘Signals at Parihar Chowk in Aundh are down between these hours, even though traffic is very high’.
    Like software issues tracking – these could ‘Enhancements’ and ‘Defects’.

    Civic authorities need to participate in this process with some kind of an SLA.

    2. Rash driving reporting (similar to what Unmesh has suggested).

    3. Statistics reporting at a city level (accidents, cases of infectious diseases, budgets, etc.)

    4. Dynamic traffic management.

  8. Anthony says:

    @Navin,

    I think this is a great idea! Why didn’t we come up with something like that earlier! But as you say, the HOW needs to be worked out.

    Ideas are there. Most of us are quite busy, though, but could mentor students who have been very passionate about getting involved in ‘projects’. So why not projects that have a good purpose?

    Maybe we could even form several teams, who then compete for solving a particular ‘Problem of the Month’ in their respective ways, through technology. Maybe PuneCIO could then, once a month, host some sort of small gathering where we all present our respctive ideas. Promising ones could even be taken further by the authorities?

    Then we ask the media and journalists that have been so interested in Pune Startups so far to give us more publicity (I’m talking newspapers here, which most people read, as opposed to online media, where we’re already pretty much well covered)

    That may just be a wonderful combination of the ecosystem working together, what do you guys think?

    @unmesh – I think that’s a great idea and good place to start! I’ve always had the secret plant to become ‘the masked green hero of pune’ who roams around on a bike made of fire, who shoots with paintballs at polluting vehicles, and marks them as ‘polluting’! A bit like captain planet… Maybe your suggestion is a more practical one though! (maybe that could give rise to the identity and look and feel of the website!!)

  9. Nishant says:

    I also have been thinking on this topic for a while now.

    @Anthony I agree completely about asking the student community to help out with implementations, while mentoring them with direction / solutions.

    Surely, the entire Pune tech community with Anupam can propose problems as well as solutions needed in immediate future.

    Having ‘smart’ systems and driven by community .. should take us a long way in achieving this.

    We at least have a good start in thinking about doing this!

  10. Vinod Kulkarni says:

    Elaborating on @unmesh’s ideas: The main question is, will traffic authorities be able to fine based on SMSes sent by general public? I don’t think so. And if they can’t fine, then there is no deterrent. Even if they can fine, then a whole set of rules would have to be introduced to ensure there is no misuse, and that the crime can be proven.

    Or, may be, SMS will only trigger an action from authorities; i.e. they will HAVE TO act, since SMSs establish audit control. That is really nice thing about this scheme.

    It will be an interesting to explore this space – i.e. can we create a large scale, citizen driven systems that can lead to lawful actions (i.e. imposing fines etc.)? Fairness is big issue: A local politician can easily muster good number of supporters to harass law-abiding folks.

    -Vinod

  11. Amit, Anthony, Nishant, Vinod, others – how about meeting up for coffee (on me) in the Aundh area (somewhere around Parihar Chowk) Thursday at 3pm? Email me confirmations at unmesh[at]gmail[dot]com

    @Anthony – shooting paintballs at polluting vehicles – thats quite innovative. It will be difficult to find a corporate sponsor, though :)

    @Vinod – you are spot on, unless the authorities act on the data we generate, this exercise will be pointless. But at the same time it will be difficult for them to shrug the data off easily, especially if the citizens take to it. That in itself is a big problem (getting people to participate) and thats where the media can play a big role.

  12. Dear Readers,

    At Patelcan we have started a blog http://www.punecan.blogspot.com and working on following initiatives:

    1. Traffic DVD Publication and Distribution:
    Progress: DVD Contenet is ready with following topics.

    a. Rules: Traffic Rules and Related Photographs.
    b. Slogans: Pictures and Slogans Related to Traffic Rules.
    c. People: People who are following Traffic Rules & People breaching Traffic Rules.
    d. Interview: Interview of reputed people from Society endorsing message of Traffic Awareness and Safe Driving.
    e. News: News Paper clippings about Best Traffic Practices, Accidents due to ignorance of Traffic Rules.

    Written A leeter to Commissioner of Polic and DCP Traffic.

    2. Traffic awareness in Truck Drivers entering in Pune at IRB Toll Plaza.

    Progress: IRB is ready to sponsor the move. We are in process of formalizing it.

  13. Yogesh Pathak says:

    Your chart is PERFECT. I noticed that after 26/11 there was a sudden rise in security volunteers, citizen watchdogs, etc, and just a few months later, many of those efforts have died a quiet death.

    Anyways – one idea: I am keen on strengthening the organic vegetable supply chain (direct from farmers to consumers, by avoiding middlemen). A few such efforts are already on in Pune, but how do we make it more widespread? If we set up a web tool where people register on a weekly basis, their vegetable preferences, it may help the farmers bring the right veggies in right quantity to the city (to leverage all the demand and also minimize wastage etc). Is there any tool already available that can make this work?

  14. Ravi Ranjan says:

    Navin, this is very interesting and relevant topic. I guess future of the cities going to change dramatically in next few decades when prediction is 70% of world population will live near or around cities, attracted by perceived better quality of life. There has been lot of discussion at my workplace ie IBM because there is initiative going on currently called SmarterPlanet, we had discussions with COEP too and are looking for ideas. Do not take it as a sales pitch but rather trying to hear and share similar ideas. IMO, public safety, healthcare and traffic are some of important areas. I will definitely participate if there is a meeting planned for this.

  15. I am delighted at this initiative. Punetech could run a competition and incubate, source or develop one or more “city focused” apps every month. I will certainly be willing to select the most relevant, people-involving and public-spirited apps for hosting on http://ciopune.in. I am also willing to mentor really good proposals and highly public spirited approaches.

    My criteria for apps with that would be of value to improve life in Pune:
    – Apps where the collected data has more value than a one time intervention.
    – Apps that provide information for research or action and give immediate sense of relief to the participant.
    – Apps that could be viral for self-help, information or action.

    Naturally each app would be expected to follow the best practices for privacy and security and state them explicitly. They would also make available all the data (other than personal data) on a creative commons license.

    I would avoid:
    – Apps that require third party interventions that may not happen.
    – Apps that setup expectation of real-time change.
    – Apps with the purpose of policing rather than generating self correction.

    Here are outlines of a few apps on my wishlist:

    -Allow anyone to sms flu-1 for untested 2 for tested 3 for confirmed 4 for cured. Display the various locations of 1,2,3 and 4 on Sadakmap as a pie graph for each administrative ward. NIV could participate by responding with sample collection vans sent to those who need testing. Btw Religare has implemented part of this idea in Delhi and is charging 4500 for H1N1 tests.

    – Collect sms about my daily travel route from anyone who would share it- my start point, my end point, my mode (bus/bike/car/cycle/walk). Display starting and ending point by mode of travel as a pie for each location. Display lines from cursor location to various end points in varying thickness based on the number of people traveling the route.

    – Use Sadakmap to specify existing traffic infrastructure- road, pavement, bus route. Specify existing attractors of traffic (schools, colleges, markets, offices, transport hubs etc). Selective on/off viewing the road, pavement, bus route, parking infrastructure for the travel routes. Overlay data from citizen travel routes.

    – Collect sms about congestion chowks and time. Display this data selectively on the infrastructure and travel routing.

    – Collect sms about crowded bus routes and time. Display this data on the travel preference information.

    – Collect sms about civic issues: dp violation/ water failure/ electricity failure/ road closure/ waste overflow. Display this information for last 30 days to date basis for each administrative ward. Allow an animation of the historic data to show improvement or deterioration.

    The key to making Pune better is to focus on people driven apps. You can only make change happen if you are willing to be part of the solution. If you would not do it, no one else will.

  16. Thanks Anupam for weighing in – you seem to be leaning away from solutions with short term benefits :)

    You have outlined quite a few projects that warrant a separate discussion thread for each. Need to find a home for each of the projects outlined in this thread on PuneTech.

    Whats also necessary is to get a NGO onboard who can help deal with the legalities of some of these projects. e.g. I have the SMS application for reporting polluting vehicles ready to go – but am unsure of releasing it without knowing the legal implications of doing so.

    Anyone know any traffic related NGO’s I can talk to?

  17. Mandar Vaze says:

    @Anupam,

    Great ideas.

    One possible problem with SMS based data is authenticity/validity of the data sent. Some apps suggested aren’t so harmful even if data is inaccurate, but specifically H1N1 count related app, could add to the panic, if data is not authenticated prior to taking any action (action as simple as publishing on web).

    How can we validate the data ?

  18. @Unmesh my focus is apps that will have enduring value.

    Yes, a separate discussion thread may be a good idea- or a separate wiki page, here or on http://giki.wikia.com is possibly a better idea. That’s why I suggested a competition. I am sure the tech wizards in Pune will dream up and design something even better!

    It may good to run a fedex challenge every month. Overnight delivery apps for Pune. Shall we say releases on the 1st of every month with the community ranking and suggesting features? Contributors could submit links to their projects sourceforge page.

    The top ranking ones could be deployed by various sites and as I mentioned I will certainly be willing to select the most relevant, people-involving and public-spirited apps for hosting on http://ciopune.in.

    @Mandar sms apps would generally have a mobile number stored. For validation-critical apps the mobile user could be made to register the mobile with further details to be able to post, edit data. Of course best-practices in privacy are important for such apps. I am sure the community can come up with even neater solutions.

    The important thing is to start generating many, many apps for the city. Only then will there be a few that may be RELEVANT, useful and used for the city. Who knows, some of you might even be able to build start-up companies out of the apps you build!

  19. Yogesh Pathak says:

    Unmesh

    There not 1-2 but 5 NGOs in Pune who want to improve traffic & roads.

    * Pune Traffic & Transportation Forum
    * Parisar
    * Pedestrians First movement
    * Save Pune Traffic movement
    * Some time ago there was a Google group too of IT workers who collected and tracked complaints on roads (can’t remember them)
    * And also there is a more general NGO Janavani working on multiple issues.

    Try Google for locating them.

  20. Here’s more fodder for tracking polluting vehicles. An article on Economic Times highlighting the fact that curbing Soot emissions can go a longer way in helping arrest climate change.

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Pollution/Cut-soot-slow-climate-change-Scientists-/articleshow/5120103.cms

  21. kd mrinal says:

    Sir, I am really can not understand why the corporetions are notspending on the rivers to have a water way ferry service.Lot of employment can be created.The ferry service will be able to cover the expenses.fuel will be saved,polution will be decreased.Let the other project go through but it is also a important.

  22. Dear Readers,

    At Patelcan we have started a blog http://www.punecan.blogspot.com and working on following initiatives:

    1. Traffic DVD Publication and Distribution:
    Progress: DVD Contenet is ready with following topics.

    a. Rules: Traffic Rules and Related Photographs.
    b. Slogans: Pictures and Slogans Related to Traffic Rules.
    c. People: People who are following Traffic Rules & People breaching Traffic Rules.
    d. Interview: Interview of reputed people from Society endorsing message of Traffic Awareness and Safe Driving.
    e. News: News Paper clippings about Best Traffic Practices, Accidents due to ignorance of Traffic Rules.

    Written A leeter to Commissioner of Polic and DCP Traffic.

    2. Traffic awareness in Truck Drivers entering in Pune at IRB Toll Plaza.

    Progress: IRB is ready to sponsor the move. We are in process of formalizing it.

Leave a Reply
Your email address will not be published. All fields marked * are mandatory.


Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.