Twitter users come together to work on power cut infographic
Kim Arora, TNN | May 14, 2011, 05.50pm IST
NEW DELHI: A bunch of Twitter users have come together to gather information about power cuts in India and make an infographic that will map the geographical spread of power cuts across the country. It all started when Shefaly Yogendra, a London-based investment consultant, saw a discussion on power cuts on her Twitter timeline and suggested to her friends, "May be you guys SHOULD tweet #powercut with location. The infographic will highlight the need for investment. To many people." The idea caught on. Users had begun writing about the time and location of the power cuts in their respective areas with the hashtag (a word preceded by a hash sign that helps categorise tweets) #powercutindia. About 28 minutes after the initial discussion, Ajay Kumar (username @ajuonline) put up a web page that had started mapping power cuts in the country on the basis of the tagged tweets. Now the page can be accessed at http://powercuts.in. A Twitter account by the name of @PowerCutsIn has also been employed to collect data. The page is built on an Ushahidi platform, which provides free software for information collection. The same platform has been used earlier to collect information on incidents of violence in Kenya. While the updates from Twitter are being incorporated on to the map by a team of 11 moderators information received via the smartphone app updates the map automatically. "I'm trying to get some people to code a page that will show the availability of power real-
time," says Ajay Kumar, a software engineer working with a Lucknow-based NGO. First city to be mapped, according to Ajay on Twitter, was Gurgaon. In the first couple of days, 46 reports had been mapped, at a rate of 9.2 reports a day. These reports have further been sorted into categories of "planned", "unplanned", "good news" (indicating no power cuts) and "voltage". An open Google document, which anyone can read, edit and shared, was also floated online, where people volunteered to do the data crunching, and provide tech support. Those involved are trying to take this beyond an empty datavisualisation exercise and trying to figure out what to do with it. Pitting this data against that of diesel prices and farm output are just some of the suggestions that have come in from users on the same Google document. Others suggested tweeting with pin-codes for better accuracy while representing the data on a map. "We've got thousands of tweets coming in with this hashtag. We could use all this data to see the number of power cuts that weren't a part of planned load shedding by power companies," says Kumar. There were discussions about roping in non-Twitter users as well for better reach. "Two companies have already contacted me regarding this, saying they can offer their services for gathering data on the same through mobiles. Nothing has been finalized, though," says Kumar. Crowdsourcing, or getting a large group of people to provide data on a particular subject, has been a rage ever since the web went social. A similar mapping exercise, which maps mobile network problems in India, already exists online by the name of Mobile Telco #Fail. In the UK, an online service has started mapping specific medical symptoms that people tweet about to study the spread of diseases. So if the map shows a substantial number of people in your area getting a sore throat and a running nose with fever, you know you shouldn't be taking your sniffles lightly.
The pace at which things are proceeding with this, it's hard to say where this would go. "I have seen many online activism attempts fail. But I just jumped onto this one. People are coming up with some really sensible suggestions. Let's see where this goes," says Kumar.
A bunch of Twitter users have come together to gather information about power cuts in India and make an infographic that will map the geographical spread of power cuts across the country.
Crowdsourcing, or getting a large group of people to provide data on a particular subject, has been a rage ever since the web went social.