Talk about exposing scams in India, the one constant weapon in the hands of the citizens has been the Right to Information Act 2005. Be it exposing– our Hon’bl Ex-President Pratibha Patil’s uncanny expenditure on flying her relatives around the country or 2G scam or other cases of corruption in India, RTI Act has been a handy tool. “Corruption can be tackled with increase in government transparency and technology provides a great way to achieve that goal,” shares Raj Shekhar Singh, Co-Founder, RAACI.According to the Economic Times, over 3.74 lakh RTI applications have been filed in the last one year alone, 2011-12. The real question is, can we access all those 3.74 RTIs filed? Is all that information available for public to access instead of filing for the same information again? How about making all this information accessible for the public?
“The information is usually half baked even with RTI. You need to ask for specific questions to get full details. There are people who are filing 10 RTIs a day. But there are others who want the answers to the same question. Essentially, this means that people need a platform where all this information can be shared. There is no web based platform that does this. We want to be that platform. We want to provide transparency,” shares Raj who spearheads the RTI data management and is also the spokesperson for RAACI with RTI activists and other publics.
Started in August this year, Rapid Action Against Corruption in India (RAACI) was co-founded by Raj Shekhar Singh, a Ph.D candidate at UC Berkeley and Sravan Puttagunta, an NRI, a computer science engineer and an aspiring entrepreneur. The idea of building this platform came to the duo in October last year when the Anti-corruption movement had gained momentum in a serious way in India. At the same time, data.gov website was started in the U.S. providing information to citizens.Sravan who built the technology behind RAACI from scratch believes that there are multiple opportunities to increase transparency using technology. RAACI currently has more than 150 – 200 RTIs available to the public. The idea is to crowd source the information on to the platform. This information on the website can be accessed through a direct search or by using the RTI map feature which is a user-friendly navigation map indicating all the RTIs in specific geographies in India. “We want to keep the search really uncluttered. We want it to be simple following the Google approach, staying away from the Yahoo approach,” explains Raj.
RAACI has been updated with new features which allow users who have sufficient information on a particular issue to start a campaign. Others can upload their videos, photos, information etc to back the campaign making the experience more social. They have also introduced videos to guide the users with the website. Apart from these features, RAACI intends to make all the information available to citizens also through a mobile app. Although all the technology involved have been built on their own, due to dependence on crowd sourcing, the data accumulation and categorization has been their real challenge so far. RAACI intends to be a non-profit organization. However, they also intend to create revenue streams within the website that will expand their bandwidth to hire, sustain the website etc.As for their future plans, RAACI intends to make their service a real time service in two or three years time. “If there is an RTI about a road then take a photo and post it on our platform in real time. Right now we are focused only on India but we want to take it international. We also think that this solution is suited for all countries, not just India,” confirms Raj
Have RTIs that you would to like share with the public? RAACI can help you, take a look.