While we wait for the Delhi elections results to be out, three Bangalore based entrepreneurs – Vikram Nalagampalli, Sirisha Koganti and Lakshmi Dasam have set out to do something very interesting. They have launched a portal, Voterite.com, which they hope will become a two-way communication platform between the voter and the candidate.
Voterite hopes they can get users who have problems in their respective areas to post on the site and collectively through discussions and exchanges of ideas arrive at a solution to the problem. The site is also trying to convince politicians to come aboard the site and use it as a platform to connect to the masses. While no politician has signed up so far, Vikram claims 700 people have come aboard since starting last month. “We want the site to help citizens who don’t have time to physically goto politician or administration offices and present their problem. Being a social platform, we hope people will tell each other and therefore get connected via problems they have in a particular locality,” he explains about the idea. So say the roads in Indiranagar, Bangalore is full of potholes, residents of Indiranagar can discuss the issue on Voterite, use information about the roads available in public domain to decide the course of action. If the MLA from Indiranagar is also on Voterite, then they can present to him the problem there and demand a solution, explains Vikram.
Voterite also hopes to become a digital diary of a candidate, by chronicling his work over a five year period and then analyzing the effectiveness or responsiveness of the candidate during the period. Masses on the other hand can also look at the chronology and analysis that Voterite puts out to decide how well the candidate has fared during the time s/he is in power.
How will they make money?
Vikram is ambitious when he says he will approach the local businessman for advertising. So if a substantial number of people from a particular locality come online, then he can talk to businesses in the area to advertise online. Money making is something for the future, admits Vikram who is currently focused on getting enough users online.
Started by bootstrapping, Vikram was earlier working in US, before he quit his job to return to India. Voterite is a result of the personal problems Vikram faced while trying to get essentials arranged in India, such as a phone or gas connections. He points out that the SLAs (service level agreements) of such government institutions will not improve, if the political leadership do not hold them answerable. “To move the political leadership in this direction, voters must come out in droves to voice their opinion. Currently, a large number of voters, between 18-35 years, especially in urban constituencies do not exercise their votes, Voterite wants to be able to bridge the gap,” says Vikram ambitiously.
While the idea is good, getting people to come to a site to discuss a governance problem is somewhat ambitious. Vikram points out that there are sites like Greenpeace and Awaaz.org which is already effectively using the dig ital space to make a difference.
According to the user agreement of the site Voterite has limited liability and cannot be held responsible for any disputes arising from the use of Voterite. So while it is a good idea to provide a platform to people, many would expect Voterite to play a more active role in case of actual issues, rather than be a passive observer.
The other bit is the monetization model that Voterite is thinking of. Businesses and the sway politicians have on them is known. So how willing will a businessman be to advertise on Voterite, if there is a furore on the site about a local politician?
Nevertheless given the recent enthusiasm every political party is showing towards social media, if Voterite manages to pull in the crowd and convince politicians, it could be a new way to drive accountability among elected representatives.