Defining the purpose of our project

When the site was initially started, it just had one vague purpose “to crowdsource data: duration, frequency, type (planned/unplanned), about power cuts in India”. Gradually a lot of ideas started popping in on what else can be done on the open document and emails, twitter. Slowly it became clear that there should be a specific focus and objectives of any such info-activism project. After observing the project through these months and allowing it to develop organically and take its own shape, I have come up with these thoughts which should be our focus for the project and I seek your comments on this:

In my opinion, any Citizen Media driven project has these core components and purpose:

  1. News is contributed by the citizens by use of various forms of media.
  2. Voices of the citizens are given a platform to be heard globally and escalated.
  3. Is for the sole purpose of “public interest”.
  4. Acts as a platform for the citizens to connect, envision, communicate and act about issues relevant to them.

The purpose of PowerCuts.IN:

  1. Escalating Unheard Voices: Highlight the power cut issue in India by escalating community reported news.
    We got a report from Sector 7, Channi Himmat, Jammu (see report) just after few days since the site was launched. Gradually observing the media reports and the areas it covers in terms of reporting electricity problems, I barely have found them reporting anything beyond urban/semi-urban power problems.
  2. Awareness & Accountability: Spreading information about what the government is doing, latest happenings in the Energy Sector and making the tax payer aware.
    During my journeys in rural India, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand I have found that lack of electricity/power outage is a major problem there. Then one day I came across the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyudikaran Yojana (Rural Electricity Scheme) with a common minimum goal of providing electricity to all households in 5 years. I couldn’t see it working in the areas I went or maybe I needed to dig more and compare with what government reports and the real situation on the ground.
  3. Identifying Problems: For e.g. Citizens can report power theft if they witness it or their electricity usage patterns and then compare with supply in their area.
    There are other problems than just demand, supply for e.g. power theft, usage patterns etc.
  4. Accessibility: Making it easy for people to report data using various mediums and publishing data in open, accessible formats.
    Having various mediums of reporting: like Voice(phone call), SMS, Internet, Mobile Apps the objective of the project is to be able to reach out to the maximum possible masses and enable effective citizen media reporting. Since the data/information on the site is citizen generated, it is also provided back to the public in open accessible formats with a non restrictive license.

I wrote a project plan a few months back (here) and would be iterating on that in the coming days. Please feel free to provide your comments and suggestions here or over email to me or by joining our mailing list.

About Ajay Kumar
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One Response to Defining the purpose of our project

  1. Greta Byrum says:

    Ajay, I think this is well-said and I really like that you “crowdsourced” the project purpose just like you did the data. I also like the core components you list here and feel like they could be used as one input for a set of principles to be shared among a lot of relevant citizen-reporting/data-gathering projects worldwide. Setting up a framework for sharing best principles and strategies is a long term goal of mine and Georgia‘s.

    I think you could say more perhaps about the importance of the geographic component of this work for identifying and analyzing patterns.

    Also, I think for this project (and a lot of other crowdsourcing projects) there’s an open question about how best to leverage and represent the data for the purpose of advocacy. We’re thinking hard about this and I know you are too.

    Anyhow, great food for thought, thanks! – Greta

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