Published on The Hindu | September 18, 2014

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Roaring for the common man

by NIKHIL VARMA


Joining Nandan Nilekani’s campaign team showed a group of public-spirited youngsters how technology can streamline the process and a start-up, Fourthlion was born.

The team created a number of apps and analytical tools to help on the campaign trail and went on to start their own technology startup, Fourthlion.in.

Shankar says, “We started working with each other as part of the Aadhar project. We were dealing with different dimensions of the project. We were thinking of starting something that would allow us to channelize our different skills for the good of society. When Nandan joined the poll fray, he became our first client. We created tools that would help analyse the demographics of the wards in the constituency, the basic issues the people faced and their expectations from the candidates. We created apps that allowed voters to get information about their polling stations online.”

Fourthlion Technologies aims at providing technology and data solutions that would help politicians connect with users at a data level.

Viral says, “the fourth lion in the name refers to the invisible lion in the Ashoka pillar. One can think of the three lions as the three pillars of government - the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The fourth lion is invisible. It is the citizen. It is all of us. That is what our logo symbolises with three lions in gold, and the invisible one in red.”

He adds, “With data and analytics, it is possible to plan better, pick the right candidates, create the perfect message, understand the mind of the voter, their aspirations, and deliver the message systematically through multiple electronic and physical channels - from social media to a door knock from a volunteer or a party worker. Technology has redefined activities such as buying plane/train/bus tickets, calling taxis, booking movie tickets, and buying books, music and just about anything online. We have even seen our banks go from the ledger to core banking and fully online services in a few years. Elections are the last bastion - the scale is vast and so much has to be done in such little time. We feel that the time is now - to use data, analytics, and technology to significantly improve the way elections are contested.”

The Nilekani campaign helped them in taking forward their ideas. Naman says, “We learned a lot from managing the campaign and realised that many of these tools can be used by political parties and by other business enterprises as well. It gave us a better idea of the manner in which elections are conducted and the issues people face.”

This experience resulted in many apps being released during the campaign. “The Voter Lookout app helped citizens find their serial numbers on voter lists and their booth details.

“It ensures that voters would not have to spend time looking for their polling booth. A votes told us that she would like to vote for the app, and not AAP,” quips Shanker

He contends that technology has changed Indian elections completely. “Ten years ago, the mobile phone era was in its infancy. Social media was not invented yet. Technology has changed campaign styles and made it much more interactive. We envisage social media as a tool that will ensure that politicians and voters can connect on many issues.” The company is presently working on a slew of projects, for political parties and corporate entities. One of the popular projects is their polling product, InstaVaani. Viral quips, “Through InstaVaani, we can conduct polls instantaneously across vast geographies and get a quick pulse on what voters are thinking. Such a product could only be designed in the crunch-time of an election. However, once developed, it is finding applications in a corporate setup, where the management team can quickly gather information and get a pulse of their business. InstaVaani is in the process of being deployed in diverse domains such as media, retail, financial services, market research, and hospitality.”

Another project makes the process of sorting through endless property records to find the relevant numbers an easier task. “You just need to enter some basic information into the app and it will find out the relevant numbers in an instant. It will help save a lot of time and energy.”

 


 



The Hindu | September 18, 2014

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