NIT Suratkal students develop govt aided Healthizen app to deal with health & sanitation issues
Healthizen is a mobile app which citizens of Bangalore city can use to report issues on health and sanitation to the Government of Karnataka. It provides a direct and efficient channel for citizen participation in making Bangalore a cleaner place.
The core idea behind Healthizen is encouraging active citizen participation in getting things done. “It's not just about health and cleanliness, but more about involving the community in taking actions to change their surroundings for the better by enabling the government instead of blaming them,” says the team who developed Healthizen.
Birth of the idea
The idea of Healthizen stemmed out of a casual conversation among friends about summer plans. “We decided to spend some part of a summer developing the app, and pitched it to Dr. Sadhana, Executive Director of KSHSRC. She was really excited about the potential of the idea, and she helped us refine it and take it forward,” adds the team.
The State and Union health ministers’ interest in the app was encouraging. “We know that there are other similar apps that exist, but we feel like the real power of Healthizen lies in the fact that it is a government initiative, and an officially recognized channel,” reveals the team.
How it works?
The app basically allows users to report an issue on health and sanitation in three simple steps -
- Click a picture of the issue to be reported.
- Enter a few details about the issue
- Hit send
Users can then track the status of their submission at healthizen.org, and anyone can view all the flags reported.
Key team members
Dr. Sadhana, Executive Director of the KSHSRC, is the Project Head, and has been a great mentor to the team from the start. She helped make the app as comprehensive as possible, ensuring that a large number of scenarios which can be potential health issues are brought to the government's attention through Healthizen.
The app and its accompanying processes were designed by a team of students from NITK Surathkal, including Anindita Ravikumar, Kalyanasundaram S, Kartik Sreenivasan, Arka Rai Chaudhary and Siddhartha R Thota.
So far the app has amassed 150-200 downloads. “Impressions are positive at the moment, but it has only been a week after the release so it’s too soon to tell anything about how the app will perform in the future. But the reception for now has been very encouraging,” says the team.
The app has been getting an influx of suggestions from friendly and enthusiastic Bangaloreans. The team also plans to come up with an iOS version in the next week. While many people have downloaded the app, there are not too many people actively using it at the moment, which is a bit disappointing. “Hopefully, we'll get over the user-inertia very soon,” says the team.
Government support was very instrumental
The government has been very supportive of the app from the start. Once the project pitch was accepted, the project was fully funded by the Department of Health and Family Welfare. The government has been involved in several stages of the development of Healthizen. The app was extensively tested and critiqued by the government before evolving into its final form.
Competition, differentiators and USPs
“We didn't know about any competition when we set out to do the project. But now of course, there's the Clean India app by Social Cops which looks fantastic. We definitely have a lot to learn from their app,” says the team.
Healthizen is about engaging active citizen participation to enable the government to do its job. “Healthizen tries to serve as a direct, official and efficient channel for active citizen participation. It is in the spirit of democracy and partnership -- pushing the government to do its job, but also playing your part in helping the government,” points out the team.
“The other apps rely on citizens trying to solve the issues themselves. This works great for small scale problems in local communities, and in fact, we'd even say that it works better. Maybe Healthizen could fill the gap differently. The bigger issues of cleanliness like open drains, building new drains, or a large scale cleaning of a lake, is something only the government can undertake,” says the team.
Healthizen has the potential to provide a channel for bringing these larger issues to the attention of local authorities better than the other apps. “Making this app entirely a government initiative gives us resources and reach like never before. We'd say that's an important difference,” concludes the team.