How 500 Startups-backed SocialCops gets to the bottom of the pyramid with big data
Thursday, July 31, 2014
India, like most developing countries, struggles to bridge the gulf between authorities and the common man. Even the best of intentions come to naught when the benefits of welfare schemes don’t reach the people who need them the most — and those in high places can’t seem to figure out why. There are many reasons for this, such as leakages in the system or plain apathy. But often it has nothing to do with corruption, but simply an administrative matter: decisions that affect the lives of millions of people are being taken with little ground data to support them.
This is the hole that SocialCops, a data technology startup, attempts to plug. It is building a tool that will allow policy-makers, researchers, and journalists to collect, analyze, and visualize data about some of the most daunting social and governance issues in India. For that, it has just raised US$320,000 in seed funding from 500 Startups, as well as individual investors Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India, and Manoj Menon, managing director of Frost & Sullivan APAC.
Here is how SocialCops works: data from the people on a variety of issues that affect their daily lives – from pot-holes on roads to teacher-attendance in government schools – is crowd-sourced via low-cost internet-enabled mobile phones. It also deploys field workers to remote areas with no mobile connectivity. From the large amounts of data collected, it mines insights, and ensures those reach decision-makers.
Sometimes, the causes of problems like a higher number of crimes in a particular area aren’t obvious from just one set of data. But when you layer many parameters, the answers become evident. For example, when SocialCops mapped crime rates, police patrol routes, and dark streets simultaneously, the correlation between crime and lack of street lights came up. The startup used its findings to push for more street lights in the affected areas, and better patrolling to tackle public safety issues.