Swachh Bharat has found its place as a national priority under Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. The task is enormous and will require change in individual behavior as well as transformation in sanitation infrastructure and capabilities. Technology can be an enabler in this process by providing tools, processes, and structures to make cleanliness and sanitation achievable and sustainable.
Making Swachh Bharat sustainable
There has been a focus on “cleanliness drives” as a part of the Swachh Bharat mission. Recently, everyone from Salman Khan to Sachin Tendular to Modi himself wielded a broom.
Problem: Finding places to fix.
One of the missing components in a sustainable Clean India ecosystem is a pool of geo-tagged unclean spots. A repository like this could increase the efficiency of cleanliness drives and make it extremely simple to pick a nearby location and get started.
How technology can help: A searchable, crowdsourced map of unclean spots.
Problem: Inviting friends or community members for a clean-up session.
While there are a number of organizations and welfare groups actively organizing cleanliness drives and doing great work, the challenge that continues to confront us is the extension of these cleanliness drives at a very granular level.
A task as massive as cleaning India cannot be accomplished by organizations or groups running clean-up sessions on an ad-hoc basis. Individuals and the communities themselves should be regularly involved in cleaning sessions. However, this can be difficult to organize. For example, I wanted to organize a cleanup drive in my locality in my neighborhood, but my friends live in different localities and I didn’t know how to approach enough neighbors in my community.
How technology can help: A group communication tool and event assimilation tool, with easy search of groups and events around you.
The recently launched “I Clean India” android application provides an easy solution to some of these problems – crowdsource images, organize a clean-up session, and solve the problem. You can download it here: Android Apps on Google Play
Improving garbage cleaner efficiency for Swachh Bharat
Problem: No incentives for sanitation workers.
The public worker system in India lacks an incredibly important component – incentives for good performance. People tend to perform better when recognized for their good performance. While this is a well-embraced concept in the corporate world globally, public sector in developing countries often remain behind.
How technology can help: Identify the cleanest streets and best safai karamcharis.
In one of SocialCops’s case studies in Delhi, crowdsourced citizen sanitation scores (collected via phone) were used to rate streets based on their cleanliness, which in turn was used to incentivize safai karamcharis.
Citizens scored the cleanliness of their streets on a biweekly basis on a scale of 1-10. Accumulated data over a period of two months was used to identify the cleanest streets of the municipal ward. This data was then used to identify the best karamcharis for the month, identified as the top five consistent performers over the two months.
Read about the case study here: Crowdsourced Data To Boost Karamchari Morale | SocialCops
Improving resource and budget allocations towards Swachh Bharat
Problem: Lack of necessary resources.
While the government is equipped with the necessary resources, it lacks data to substantiate resource allocation. There are many reasons that cleanliness standards are not maintained, and not all of them are attributed to corruption. For instance, safai karamcharis often need better equipment like shoes and brooms.
How technology can help: Get better data on resources.
Data on resources could give mayors and corporations better information of where to allocate their resources. For instance, in a similar project in Ranchi, the mayor allocated around 2.15 crores to fixing streetlights based on crowdsourced data.
Read about the case study here: Crowdsourced to fix broken streetlights | SocialCops
Monitoring for Swachh Bharat
Problem: Lack of accountability for third-party garbage agencies.
India generates about 56,000 to 60,000 tonnes of garbage every day. The treatment and disposal of this huge volume of garbage is an issue with most municipal corporations. Garbage collection in India is outsourced to third party agencies. The processing includes handling waste generation, segregation, storage, collection and transportation, processing (converting waste to energy) and waste disposal.
Given the highly fragmented system, there is a lack of accountability among these third party agencies, so their work often goes untracked. There is also scope for glitches with the vehicles breaking down or errant workers skipping garbage collection from certain houses.
How technology can help: An app for social audits.
What if we monitor and supervise these untracked parameters by asking citizens to rate cleanliness levels on their streets every day? This real-time data collected can then be mapped to evaluate the efficiency of agencies and take corrective action. Unless we adopt a systematic approach and hold each party in this chain accountable, we are unlikely to meet with enduring success.
Swachh Bharat requires a lot more than brooms on the streets. Right now, we are perfectly engineered to co-exist with the lack of sanitation that surrounds us. Unless we overhaul the hardware and software in the existing ecosystem, we will not see a lasting effect.