But not all crowdsourcing applications are based on text messaging. In the southern city of Hyderabad, for example, the local government uses Global Positioning System technology and cellphone cameras to manage the mounting problem of uncollected garbage. Sanitation supervisors take photos of overflowing trash cans, and the images are uploaded in real time. Officials say this helps hold sanitation workers accountable.
In New Delhi, a new Web site urges women to report harassment and help map neighborhoods they consider unsafe. A mobile app called Fight Back, which will be launched in November for $2 a month, is tied to the site and enables a woman to send alerts to her friends from her smartphone if she is harassed. The alerts also go to her Facebook page and identify her location on a map.
“The ‘unsafe map’ of Delhi that we are creating with women who report harassment on our site will push the government to turn their attention to these places and warn women and tourists,” said Hindol Sengupta, co-founder of Whypoll, a networking platform for improving governance that has listed such areas with input from more than 100,000 women.
Sengupta recently demonstrated the program to several women at a busy upmarket mall in the capital.
“Do you go to the police if you get harassed?” he asked women. All of them said no.
“I feel helpless if a man whistles, passes a lewd comment or touches me in a bus or a public place. I just ignore and keep quiet because I do not want to provoke them. That’s what we are taught by our families,” said Reena Sharma, a 31-year-old cosmetics saleswoman.
Initially available only on smartphones, the service will eventually extend to low-cost cellphones as well, said Sandeep Sidhu, global delivery manager of CanvasM, the technology interface company that created Fight Back.
Some of these initiatives, including a mobile app launched by CanvasM, are helping India’s 400 million blue-collar migrant workers tap into new opportunities.
“We are helping poorer Indians at the bottom of the pyramid take advantage of the job opportunities arising out of the economic boom that is underway in India,” said Jagdish Mitra, chief executive at CanvasM.