As India goes to polls this year, multiple startups are working to ensure that the process remains seamless for the 90 crore citizens who are set to cast their vote in April 2019.Shruti Kedia
There is a buzz in the air, this election year. And startups are lapping it up: from providing poll booth information on apps, to conducting online opinion polls to gauge the mood of the nation; from creating a constituency citizen-specific manifesto to crafting a board game to understand how the Indian democracy works — there is enough to liven up the 2019 elections.
Pratham Mittal, Founder of Neta app, which allows you to rate and review politicians, says:
"After elections, leaders tend to forget their commitments. There is no way to hold them accountable. That's when I thought that just as we rate Uber drivers and restaurants, we should be able to rate leaders as well. These will also help voters decide who they want to vote for."
Often, lack of information about poll booth constituencies or even about candidates makes it difficult for voters--especially those who refuse to engage with politics and current affairs--to choose their leader.
To break this cycle of ignorance, and to engage with youth, especially in Tier II and III cities, Abeer Kapoor, a former journalist who has reported on multiple state elections over the course of five years, created a board game called ‘The Poll: The Great Indian Election Game.’
“In elections, it is all about the political particles and, essentially, each political party is the same. Each party has the same basic resources— money, grassroots/on-ground workers, and an agenda/ideology to pitch,” the 27-year-old explains.
Keeping these basic components in mind, Abeer created a board game that simulates India’s national electoral process, inviting the players to navigate through political upheavals to ultimately form an electoral campaign, subsequently win an election, and make policy decisions. All these while the players deal with black money, corruption, fake news, and the omnipresent media.
All these innovations, technology, and apps are catered to the youth with the aim of not only helping them hold the government accountable for their commitments and promises made during the electoral campaigns, but also to bring transparency in governance, and foster greater public participation to deal with civic issues.
The election fever in India is at an all-time high and, today, political discussions have entered our living rooms. However, as we move closer to election time, the electorate is caught in the web of fake news, misinformation, and propaganda, and often crucial information gets lost in the melee of noise. To combat this, and equip the voter with information about issues that are crucial to their respective constituency Amit Bansal founded Next Election.
“The idea is to have an accountability platform where the public can discuss their grievances, and the issues of daily life, which they would want their elected leaders to address,” he explains.
The Next Election app has over 10 lakh users till date. It allows an individual to access all the information relevant to their constituency — details about their ward leader, MLA, MP, prominent parties in their areas, trending issues in their locality, and in the state.
The information is also shared with a larger set of organisations and citizen groups like YLAC India, Janaagraha, and Madhyam, which are working with multiple stakeholders, including politicians and policymakers. The aim is to ensure the voice of the user is heard by the government and political leaders who hold the decision-making authority.
‘QNA— Question. News. Analysis.’, founded by Kartik Desai and Zahaan Khan, aims to capture the attitude of the youth towards multiple political, economical, and social issues through data.
“This is an open-data initiative through which we hope to understand the pulse of nation. We want to collect independent data, and inform the user what people from similar demographics think about a particular issue. This app is not just for elections, but is a long-term project to engage the user on current affairs while understanding their needs, demands, and opinions. The aim is to improve and aid public debate,” Karthik shares.
QNA is an independent, attitudinal analysis platform on national issues. It allows any user to engage in the latest political, economic and social debates, and compare views with friends and public alike. Through a combination of content, community, and analytics tools, the online platform allows users to engage in opinion polls on multiple issues that can be customised to the user’s interest.
With an aim to ensure that voters have a seamless and enjoyable voting process on D-day, the Election Commission of India (ECI), too, has gone digital. Partnering with 01 Synergy, an IT development firm, the ECI launched ‘ECI 360’, which aims to provide information to all the stakeholders involved in the election.
Preet Chandhoke, COO of 01Synergy, says that the app provides poll-booth information to the voter, along with details of all the candidates contesting, party-wise results, among others. Specially-abled people can request the poll-booth officer to arrange for facilities to enable them to vote, as well.
BPAC, a Bengaluru-based citizen initiative, along with the Karnataka State Election Commission, has revived ‘Booth Level Awareness Groups’ (BAGs) in Bengaluru to promote responsible voting ahead of the 2019 General Elections. Their aim is to bring citizens together to participate in the electoral process, and create better awareness about contesting candidates.
Further, to help first-time voters, YLAC India, which works to increase youth participation in the democratic process, through fellowships, and Instagram have come together to create a toolkit, ‘Campaign on Election Awareness’. It offers a detailed and easy-to-understand guide on voter registration, resources for finding candidate related information including records of previous parliamentary performance, as well as tips on detecting fake news.
“We realise that young people move between cities, and they don’t know information about the constituencies. Sometimes, cynicism creeps in, and they don’t want to make the effort to find out about the voter registration process or who the candidates are, or even what the role of each elected representative is. This is where our campaigning comes in. The aim is to make the young voter an informed voter,” says YLAC India Co-founder Aparajita Bharti.
Irrespective of one’s political ideologies, beliefs, economical and social background, voting is a fundamental right enjoyed by the citizens of India, and this forms the bedrock of our democracy. Startup today realise the potential of this event, and are working on different innovations with the aim of bringing the government and public closer.
“Citizens want to interact with the system and ultimately want their voice to be heard. Startups help to bridge the gap between citizens, leaders, policymakers, government officials, and political leaders. It is an ongoing process, and elections are just the beginning,” Next Election’s Amit concludes.