Public Data Devthon Pre-Event at Lamakaan

The event was titled ‘A presentation on Insights into Government Data & Information.’

Rakesh Dubbudu, founder of FACTLY spoke in detail about the opportunities and possibilities that Open Data offered in India.

The event was attended by more than 35 participants who were excited to take home some important learnings and contribute to the Open Data movement.

Rakesh started his talk by asking few questions to the audience, like:

Q. How many percentage of Indians travelled more than half a kilometer to fetch drinking water?

Q. Which is the state with the highest cases of Fluorosis?

Members from the audience were quite confident of their answers but were pleasantly surprised at what the actual data had to show. Rakesh took this opportunity to explain how everyone formed their own perspectives, being influenced by media and other sources without actually having any facts to back it up.

Also he mentioned how the news and information we consume daily were highly biased with narratives that were built to make the audience believe in something that could actually be very far from the truth. He emphasized on the fact that for information to have credibility, the data needs to seen in context. This was only possible when the government and the citizens worked together to create a effective feedback system to ensure that the resources reach the last person.

Rakesh came to the important point of people being hesitant to embrace data. The core issue being the complexity associated with it. The need for skills and access also proved to be important reasons. But the main reason was that people did not know how this data would exactly benefit each them. They felt that the high level data that they were used to seeing in the media was of no actual use to them. This mindset needed to change and this Devthon would play an important role in it.

He shared this example where, the number of farmers that had committed suicide in the last 4 years would be equivalent to more than 50 MH370 crashes. Now imagine the media attention that had been missing on one of the most pressing issues of this generation.

Rakesh briefly went through the various portals from where government data can be accessed. He also told that nearly 5% of the budgets of all government agencies was spent in generating data. Now this data had chances for many discrepancies but there was always the assurance that since the data was from the government, it had a high level of credibility attached to it.

Using this data from the government, works and budgets of government agencies could be closely monitored. He shared an interesting observation that FACTLY was able to bring to the national media attention. They accessed the data on the AICTE website for 5 states and found that many teachers were on the rolls of of more than 1 colleges. One teacher was on the rolls of 16 colleges, while many had their names as part of more than 5 colleges.

This story was covered by ‘The Hindu’ and a MP went on to raise a question about this in the Rajya Sabha. The records were soon corrected and there was not a single duplication in the records. Just few weeks back, when the Telangana government found that there were 50 duplications that had again appeared on the site, they immediately ordered for it to be removed. Thus we could see how powerful open data can be to effectively check on the mistakes of government agencies.

He also shared various examples from his personal experiences working at FACTLY where they were seeing the full potential of open data coming to life. He shared a story, where 1 in 7 IAS declared that they didn’t have any assets. This got some interesting reactions from the audience, but everyone agreed that it made for a conversation that could lead to some fascinating insights.

Vamsi Vepakomma, a participant from our Safety Devthon shared his experience with the audience. He spoke about how the environment at Devthon has helped him come up with mobile apps solutions that made life easier for commuters. He also spoke about the opportunities he had got after that event which included the chance to work with the Cyberabad police and various other government agencies in India.

It was time for questions and the audience did raise some interesting points. There were questions on the authenticity of the government data and what the government was doing to make use of this data. There were many queries on what the tools were that could be accessed by people who didn’t have knowledge of different softwares. Rakesh answered these questions and assured them that anyone with genuine interest could master data visualization tools like Tableau within 2 weeks.

He also went to share a story about the correlation they found between free electricity and farmer deaths some years ago. So in these villages as the electricity was provided free of cost, it often was supplied at odd times, sometimes even at 1 AM in the night. The farmers who were in the hurry to use the electricity for the limited time, used to leave the wires hanging in the open. As the electricity was erratic, many farmers would suffer from electric shocks that would lead to their deaths.

Harish Krishnan, founder of Devthon chipped in to talk about the purpose behind conducting the FACTLY Data Devthon and who would be the ideal participants to attend the event. He also spoke about the role of the government and how Open data would be an important factor in the speeding up of development activities. He along with Rakesh also answered questions on the datasets that would be used at the event and the possibilities offered by social entrepreneurship using Open Data.

After the event, many of the participants stayed back to discuss various doubts they had regarding the use of data visualizations and apps/dashboards that could be built for that purpose. It was promised that there would be more datasets that would be used during the Devthon other than those mentioned.

The FACTLY Data Devthon will be held on the 7th and 8th of May with the immersion activities being scheduled between 1st — 6th May.

The two datasets that have been confirmed as of now are the data released by NITI Ayog for each district of the country in five different sectors namely Health, Education, Electricity, Water & Telecommunication and also the NREGS data on different kinds of works undertaken in Telangana since the inception of this scheme upto the village panchayat level.

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