Blogger : Aashish Sharma, GIS Analyst, Naxa Pvt. Ltd.
A great person had once said that for good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument and debate. That is exactly how “Lights On” began. At the beginning, it was only a constructive discussion of what could be done.
The initial idea focused on a lot of utilities like electric poles, transformers, advertisement boards and so on. To be frank, it was a big list to start with. So, it was narrowed down to just lights, street lights, to be specific. The motivation behind making lights a priority was the conclusion to a week long discussion-most crimes happen at night!
It’s not possible for a small team or even a big team of people to collect data on each and every street light, now is it? The rescue idea came when we noticed while brainstorming and discussing- there were multiple coffee mugs on the table- one, two, three….multiple. This classic cliche made us turn towards the most trusted source- crowd source.
Swiftly, the idea we had turned into ‘LIGHTS ON’. It, now, is an application from which people could collect street light details just as they are going by their day. How? By the power of the gadget in nearly every pocket- Smartphone . Lights On App! The app includes of a form that can be filled and uploaded to the system database. The user can input vital information of the street light with GPS coordinates and a photo as evidence. Feeding the information of one street light takes less than a minute. The user can collect a number of survey for multiple street lights offline and upload them later while connected to internet. The submissions can then be visualized on a web platform – http://light.utilitymaps.org/. Hence, a complete system of both survey and visualization was completed.
There was still one thing left to do though, the promotion.
As the app is crowd sourced, it was important to make the crowd know about this app. The target audience were people like us- aspirant college students and youth. So then began the promotion journey, which I was a big part of.
Before I would promote, I wanted to know this app enough to make others understand the core of it. So I worked day and nights. Nights to survey the lights and day to understand last night’s findings. I’d be lying if I said it was not tiring to stand under each light I encountered, even if just for a second. But, all the new places that I saw, that too, in dark night made it worth the struggle. To be fair, it was a good excuse for roaming around at night among all the lights and under the clear night sky.
After being well-acquainted with the system and some preparations, it was time to meet the target audience. Then we chose a few different colleges – National College and British Gurkha College. Presentations were given explaining the initiative and the importance of the app. We encountered a twist here – they did not need explaining, rather their comments to the app made us clearer on the impact of this app on people we were targeting. The team was joyous by their feedback. One person went as far as to saying that one person on this app can make an area different. And he was true. This was the core idea of the campaign all along!
We also conducted a formal program with great panelists and presenters- Official Launch of Lights ON movement on International Open Data Day (March 2) at Staff College, Jawalakhel, Lalitpur. The program consisted of a few presentations, idea sharing and panel discussion. The panelists were Narayan Chimariya, Deputy Superintendent of Nepal Police (DSP); Mahesh Thapa, Survey Officer in the Survey Department, Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation, Government of Nepal; Sagar Basnet, Geomatics Engineer, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) and Niroj Panta, Innovation Lead at YI-Lab. A keynote speech was given by Hon. Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, Member of Parliament, Province 3 was another major highlight of the event. The panel discussion was really informative. It tackled questions like does this app make a difference in crime world? Is data in the imported in app open?
All in all, my experience in ‘Lights On’ was Brain Igniting or shall I say ‘Dimag Ko LIGHT ON Vayo’.