Paradise is here: Umngot River, Meghalaya, NorthEast India

Quite some people have asked me to write a bit about my travels, maybe provide some tipps … so I decided to give it a try. I am currently cruising India’s Northeast on a rented motorbike – this might be a good start! Let’s see how long it will last and if it will help a few people 🙂

It has been a dream for a while now, I always wanted to travel to the Northeast of India and here I am now. And I love it!

So here are fotos/details of my trip from Guwahati, Assam to the Umngot River in Meghalaya. I encourage you to follow the links as well.

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Travel details

Distance: ca. 200 km
Travel time: 5 hours plus pauses, easy ride
Type of vehicle: Royal Enfield 350 ccm
Rental: INR 1250 / day (Guwahati)
Road conditions: Very good, except 15 km just before Dwaki
Network coverage (Airtel): Pretty good all the way
Place were I stayed: Shnongpdeng, bamboo house, INR 500
What to bring: torch, towel, bathing costume and warm jacket for crossing the Shillong peak

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The ride from Guwahti to Shillong (110 km) takes 2.5 hours – it is an easy ride once you are out of the city. Slowly you climb up the road and you pass through completely different fauna and flora on your way. Just out of Guwahati you have light green colours. Bananas, pineapple you will find along the streets. Maybe 20 km before Umiam Lake the scenery is changing. Coniferous forest starts.

Umiam Lake – view from above
Umiam Lake – view from above

And it really became cold. Shillong’s elevation is roughly 1500m, Shillong peak is almost 2000m high. It was surprisingly cold in mid march. One really needed a warm jacket. From Shillong down to Dwaki the India / Bangladesh border, it takes another 2.5 hours. Beautiful road except of the last 15 km down to the border town. It gets narrow and bumpy … dancing over pot holes!

The way down leads you through the Khasi and Jaintia Hills with stunning views. And it gets warmer again 🙂

view on the way

The moment you reach the banks of the river the “catch-a-tourist” guys try to sell you a boat trip … very hard to resist when you see this water …

Umngot River at Dawki, India / Bangladesh border
Umngot River at Dawki, India / Bangladesh border

… but you really should wait … it only gets better. Drive through the small city (no hotels/homestays available) and take the road towards Shnongpdeng. It’s 10 km … 3,4 km out of Dwaki you have to make a left. The road leads you through rainforest, it’s jungle. Lovely. We’ve reached Shnongpdeng when it was dark … so all we did was to check in. There a couple of very basic homestays available – on the main road as well as down at the river. We opted for the one at the river – it is good for 3 people, better for two though and costs INR 500 per person. Wash- and bathroom is 20 m away. Clean.

Bamboo guest house right next to Umngot River
Bamboo guest house right next to Umngot River

The next morning it was very windy, only around 10 am the wind stopped.
The view was stunning and the water EXCEPTIONEL. Just have a look at the following fotos.
No more words needed.

Suspension Bridge over Umngot River, inaugaurated in 2016
Suspension Bridge over Umngot River, inaugaurated in 2016
Bamboo bench right next to the river with pretty good network coverage! 2 bars of 3 G!!!
Bamboo bench right next to the river with pretty good network coverage! Two bars of 3G!

The following foto I’ve taken from the suspension bridge …

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And the next two fotos I’ve taken from a local canoe – it’s a 1.5 hours trip and costs INR 100 a person. A must when you are there!

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Mawlynnong – Asia’s cleanest village

Mawlynnong is a small village in Meghalaya. Northeast of India. In 2003 it was awarded the ‘Cleanest Village in Asia’ by Discover India Magazine. Since I was only 45 km away I took the chance and visited the place.

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Travel details

Distance: I came from Shnongpdeng 45 km, from Guwahati it is about 200 km
Travel time from Shnongpdeng: 1.5 hours
Road conditions: Very good, except 15 km just after Dwaki
Network coverage (Airtel): completely sucks
Place were I stayed: Ha-La-Tyngkok homestay, small room, toilette attached, INR 1500
What to bring: something to read 🙂

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It’s an 18 km long strech off the main road down to the cleanest village in India. Green scenery, very – I mean – very clean. Just like Switzerland 🙂 The road is very good and – for a change – surprisingly good signs showing directions. You can feel that tourists are coming here … no doubt.

My friend Mirra, who was travelling with me, raised a very valid question: “How has someone ever found this village?”. It’s at the end of a dead end road; rural in its purest sense. Every morning shared taxis are leaving from the main square to Shillong (ca. 90 km, INR 220).

For a small village there are plenty of homestays – nothing spectacular though. As the entire village the homestays are clean and the people are welcoming. For what they offer – it is not really cheap though. Our room was really small, but we had western toilette and they brought a bucket with hot water.

Our homestay in Mawlynnong
Our homestay in Mawlynnong

The village is “pretty”, nice to look at. It is NOT lively at all. It’s truly lacking life! There are no places to eat (except in the homestays). Around the main square of the village there are a few stalls where you can buy the local “tourist stuff”. All made for the visitors.

To put it in one line: If you are close by, go and visit. I felt it’s not worth a longer trip.

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The Living Bridge, 4km away from the village, I personally found much more stunning and interesting. From the parking place, a little market square, probably 500 steps lead down to the bridge. It is 170 years old, two trees were planted by a local family, one at each side of the small river and then constantly trimmed … I’ve never seen anything like this before! And: entrance is free!

Here are a few fotos.

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A pearl in Calcutta

I love Calcutta. It really gives me a city-feeling – something which I rarely have in India’s cities. Maybe in the old part of Pune or Chennai … It was my second time in town, only a short visit though, 24 hours, but absolutely worthwhile. Especially because of the hotel we stayed in: The Fairlawn Hotel. Thank you Mirra for choosing this one!

There is a lot said and written about this 200-year-old building on Sudder Street in the city centre, a green-painted refuge of calm from the noise and dust, fringed in its front courtyard by palms, and offering old-fashioned pleasures such as gin-and-tonic taken at sundown on the veranda 🙂

It’s a place I truly fell in love with and where I will always stay when I come back to Calcutta. In every square feet of this place you feel the history, and the walls are fully decorated with memories of the English past … not at all heavy, the surprising mix of fotos, paintings and newspaper articles makes it “easy to take”.

The location is ideal, walking distance to the New Market, Park Road and The Victorian gardens. Some wonderful local restaurants are very close by … packed with a good mix of locals and “free” travellers, meaning not trafelling in groups 🙂

The rates of the hotel are decent (single starts at INR 2.500, double at INR 4.000).

Here are a few fotos:

The dining hall
The dining hall
View from the top to the reception
View from the top to the reception
Stairs up to the first floor
Stairs up to the first floor
View to the breakfast area
View to the breakfast area

we_India #2 – Stories

This we_magazine is different from the ones we’ve published before.
It’s much less Internet related.
It focusses much more on stories.
Stories about various “We’s” I’ve encountered over the last 4.5 years living in India..
It’s also a very personal edition because all the topics we’ve covered are covered by people with whom I have a personal relationship – we’ve worked together, we travelled together, we became friends.
They all have a somehow special place in my life in India.
And I actually didn’t realize this until I saw the entire magazine.
It took me almost one year to complete.
That’s my very first project were I was absolutey running on Indian time … 🙂
Too many things happened that kept me away from finishing it.
But now it’s there and I am very happy with the outcome.
I love the stories – they show India like I experience it on a daily basis.
I hope you have fun reading them!

Here you can flip through!

The Barefoot Skateboarders

This is what I do in India …

“A sport which has long been identified with urban neighbourhoods across the world, is being used in a village in central India as a trigger for social change. Ulrike Reinhard – a German national – established a skate park in Janwar, Madhya Pradesh in February 2015, with the help of a few Indian and international skateboarding organisations. The region to which the village belongs is notorious for being one of the most socially and economically backward areas of the country. Untouchability, gender inequality, illiteracy, and alcoholism are rampant here. Through the voices of Ulrike and the children of the village, the film documents how the skate park is gradually changing the social fabric of the village and addressing some of its most deep rooted issues.” 101india.com

Trance & Icecream

I’ve spent the last week in Varkala, Kerala. It was my third visit – I just love the Kaiya House and the cliff tops and the endless walks on the beach. For the first time I went with Debra, the owner of the Kaiya House to experience Kerala festivals. I’ve had seen Debra’s posts on these before – but never participated in one. Off we went one early morning. We left the house on in auto rickshaw at 6 am and arrived at the temple 25 minutes later … we were early, hardly anyone was there yet.
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It was a very peaceful atmosphere. The celebrations were devoted to Shivas youngest son, Muragon, the god of war. We learnt from Pappu, our rickshaw driver, that devotees will start from 14 different temples and all join at one major temple. We were at one of these 14 spots. You have to know where they are – way off the main road, down on unpaved winding roads until you reach a wonderful temple. Unexpectedly. Slowly the men in the village gathered, had their breakfast and got ready for the procession.

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The place was pumped with energy. I could feel – I couldn’t explain though where it came from. When the drums started all men went inside the temple for their prayers – the women were bystanders outside. While the men were completely relaxed and at the same time excited the women were rather looking scared. Two completely different groups. And then there was us – the foreigners watching the celebrations.

At 7 am it was already hot and very humid. I really had to get out of the sun and had to find a place in the shadow to watch the spectacle.

When the men came out of the temple they were in a different stage of awareness – completely focussed and all in one as a group. Everything one single person did was obviously part of the bigger picture. It was some kind of routine what was happening inside this group. Almost like a theatre play. The young men were almost ready to get pierced. The piercing was done by elders. Before the young men laid down on their ballies on the table to get pierced (meaning getting at least 4, some of them 8 hooks pushed through their flesh on the back, wade and thigh) they put themselves in trance – in no time! This was the most amazing part for me at the festival. The way these young men went from one stage of awareness to a stage where they obvioulsy didn’t feel any pain any more. It happened in no time.

One of the guys completely “passed out”, it looked like an epileptic fit what he went through and people had to lay him down on the floor. As you can see in these pics everyone of the participants had one person who specifically took care of them. People say – according to Debra – that these young men get a special training – physically and mentally – two month before the festival starts. Every time they do it – I haven’t seen one men who didn’t had any scarves on his back. No “fresher” was there.

When the men reach this stage of trance the elders first pierce a litlle speer through their cheeks and then they lay down and their backs and legs get pierced. I couldn’t watch this …

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The moment they stand up and walk away from the table they are “normal” again – very proud. Very proud.

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At this place 10 people got pierced.
It didn’t take longer than 20 minutes.

Then the next chapter of the ceremony unfolded.
The hooks in their backs were now used to hang these young men on pales in front of trucks, raise them and drive them in this position to the main temple – where later probably 30 trucks all came together! The men war hanging there for 4-6 hours before – in the bright sun, swinging proudly and happily in front of the trucks … until they reached the main temple. There they were freed from the pales, they went inside the temple for prayers and left through the back exit where the hooks and lances got removed. I’ve seen this as well (my battery was dead by this time, so I couldn’t take any photographs). Again it all happened very fast, max. 2 minutes per person, no blood, maybe be once in a while a little drop – but that was is. The moment the lances were removed they got an ice cream and they walked away … Happy and proud.

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Truly incredible India.
I haven’t seen anything like this before.

I still don’t know how to deal with this experience.
It was amazing and disgusting at the same time.
A lasting experience – no doubt!

Steadfastness

Text and photos by Cassie Broadwin.

Cassie was with me at Janwaar Castle for a bit more than a week …

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If I were to pinpoint one thing that I learned from my time with the kids of Janwaar Castle, it would be this: steadfastness; an approach to everyday life that I had previously not held so close to heart.

These are kids that are growing up well-below the poverty line. Their primary meal is a simple lunch served by the government school in the village as incentive for attending class that day. They have only one or two pairs of clothing, and many of the youngest walk barefoot before they grow into shoes the village has around. They wash in the water pump on the main road. They cannot afford any type of school supplies. But these are simply facts of life. What we commonly paint as ‘backwards’ seems radically inappropriate in Janwaar. Sure, it’s village life- but it is by no means disadvantaged. These children find ways to thrive under most any circumstance, fueled by a willpower and wellbeing that is unparallelled in any of the cities I visited during my time in India.

Each morning, Ulrike and I woke up to crisp air and the familiar burnt-orange kind of Indian sunlight. The weather was just beginning to turn out of the winter months, so we took advantage of it and brought our beds outside to sleep on the deck. By mid-morning, we’d caravan with the two other volunteers, Anna and Philip, making our way by motorbike to Janwaar Village, just outside of Panna National Park.

The kids would hear the bike from a mile away, and already be waiting by the road when we pulled up. “GOOD MORNING ULRIKE, GOOD MORNING MOWGLI (this is what they nicknamed me on our first day together).” And we’d high-five each of them, pick up a little-one to carry on our hip, and walk as a big motley crew up to the skatepark.

There was a definite language barrier between all of us. Ulrike and the other volunteers often found themselves speaking in German to each other and would have to backtrack to explain in English to me. The kids spoke only Hindi, in their local dialect. We were constantly bouncing language around, inventing new Hinglish (Hindi-English) words, and using as much body-language as possible. And for the most part- it actually worked. At least, we were able to get the main ideas across: “No school, no skateboarding!” And “Girls First!”

 

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These are the skatepark mantras. And though they seem at first to be directions for etiquette, these two little catchphrases are meddling in something much larger. For the first time in their lives, these kids are learning work ethic. They are being held accountable. They are learning to navigate rewards and/or repercussions. If they don’t attend school that day, they are not allowed to skateboard- no ifs, ands, or buts about it. They are learning to build bridges between their interests and their obligations- any in doing so, learning to see the value of education. At least, these are ideas that we’re slowly chipping away at. Girls are always allowed to skate first. After a quick co-ed warm-up session, the girls get the park all to themselves for the first 45 minutes before the boys are allowed to join in. The girls learn their worth and see that they too are empowered to navigate the world on their own terms. The boys learn that common courtesy and respect extends across the gender-divide. And by extension, across the ethnic divides that exist in the village as well.

For those who best lived-up to these park rules and managed to distinguish themselves in some way, Ulrike had the idea of rewarding them with a trip to New Delhi. Though I was not a part of the selection process, I came to understand why we chose the kids we did to be a part of this special trip. Ajay, Priyanka, Little Priyanka, Brijendra, and Doctor Kuch Kuch really are a riot, in the best way possible. These kids were ready to make waves in their own town, and prove themselves in Delhi, too.

We arranged everything to the best of our abilities, (even wine-and-dining the school principal) in order to take these five kids on the trip. Even then, we had to pull a little jugaad into the equation. On the morning of, I arrived in Janwaar with the taxi driver and wrangled the five into the vehicle- “Toothbrush? Backpack? Skateboard? OK.” We peeled away from the park, past the school, with the rest of the village kids chasing after the car waving goodbye and tapping on the car windows as we passed. There was no jealousy, mostly curiosity.

We didn’t make it very far. These kids may not have ever been in a car before, and their stomachs were increasingly uneasy with each bend in the road. We must have made ten stops for puking, and then dry heaving, but in time we made it to the train station in Khajuraho. The five kids, Ulrike, a puppy from the village!, and myself took our own cabin on an overnight train to Nizamuddin Station, New Delhi.

The idea was not to take the kids on tour. Rather, it was to let them craft a learning experience of their own- whatever it may be. Intentionally, we did not brief them on any of the areas of town we were taking them to, the people we were to meet, the school we were to visit. We simply gave them the tools, resources, time, and confidence to engage with these areas of town on their own. Partially, this was because of the language barrier. But even more so, this approach is grounded in Ulrike’s philosophy about education all-together. Like them, I came to Delhi for the learning experience. With twenty other students and two professors, I was shepherded around the city and instructed about the history of monumental structures, guided by mapped routes, and basic Hindi-language lessons. But this method was very different than what the Janwaar kids were to experience. The trip wasn’t about the history lessons and cultural exposure, it was about enabling them to better get to know themselves. And sure enough, they brought their unwavering, sure-fire enthusiasm into building their interpersonal relationships with each other and learning about their own strengths and weaknesses.

 

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At the end of the trip, I briefly interviewed each child with the help of a translator and dear friend, Vivek. I asked Priyanka what she learned on the trip, to which she replied, “I learned about making friendships. Especially with the teacher in one of the classrooms. It was my favorite part of the trip.” To the same question, Ajay replied, “I learned to jump on a skateboard. There were some older boys at the park, and they were friendly and taught me how to jump.” It was this kind of socialization, these interactions that they will take back to Janwaar- mentorship, building relationships with their teachers, recognizing how far their enthusiasm and openness to learning will get them.

It’s been three months now that I’ve been back in the states, but I still think about the lessons I learned during my time spent in Janwaar, almost daily. These children really did uphold what I call steadfast goodnature. They proved their loyalty and faithfulness to each other, their families, and village. They recognized their nationality. I saw their commitment to a system of shared values that extended well beyond relations at the rural skatepark. I saw a sense of dignity and a constant source of joy and eagerness towards learning. These kids had morals, and in terms of emotional intelligence- were leaps ahead of the city kids. They were devoted to self-improvement and had high hopes for themselves and for each other. As I’m gradually putting together a film about this entire experience, I get to relive moments through skimming old footage. I really do feel fortunate to have built a connection with this community- however rapidly it must be changing and growing on the other side of the world. Janwaar Castle is a project and a people that I couldn’t help but pour my heart into. They’re truly doing something radical in their own community, and across new generations of skateboarders in India. I press you to pay attention to the symbolism of their actions. This is momentous.

Delhi’s Bad Air …

Air pollution is reaching peaks in Delhi and the city – citizens and government – have finally started to fight it actively. One major cause for the bad air is of course traffic. In the first two weeks of January 2016 the Delhi government was running “odd-even” –  meaning one day all “odd-mumbered vehicles” were allowed to drive in the city, the next day all “even-numbers”. The campaign achieved a lot of media attention and a website for commute partners was launched by the government.

After the two weeks the environmental impact of the campaign was discussed manifold … political games on all sides. It would be insane to expect a significant reduce of air pollution after two weeks but what the intervention proofed is that the citizens are ready to take action and that the overall traffic situation was extremely relaxed. Everyone I have spoken to said this. There was no one complaining of not having been able to take the car. And most of Delhi’s citizens would do it again … So there is hope on the horizon.

What also became obvious during odd-even is that there aren’t enough measurement points in the city to serve all citizens equally. Now there is some kind of pressure to install more units and also to push the citizens somehow to action. This can only be done when they are somehow actively involved. Knowing about bad air is one thing – doing something actively against it is something different. The streets in Delhi are packed again and odd-even is almost history in this sense.

I’ve wirtten earlier on this blog that I am involved in an environment open data project which actually would close exactly this gap. While I was in Delhi the last 10 days I took the chance and spoke with Mrutyunjay Mishra (M2), co-founder of Juxt Smartmandate, a data analytics company based in Delhi and Hyderabad, and driving force behind the India Open Data Association – a non for profit company which believes in the open hardware and software movement and is promoting “open” as the secret for success to tackle the massive environmental issues in  Delhi and the rest of India is facing.

With M2 I’ve talked about the status of Open Data in India in general, about potential open data business models and what it takes to make a real impact – meaning not only collecting data but also creating communities and drive action. The first 15 minutes are about India in general, the last 20 minutes we tackle the other issues!

(Just click the play button and the audio file will start)

 

Just this morning I was reading an article featuring a French woman residing in Gurgaon (South od Delhi) who has started going around town, taking photo portraits of common Delhiites, making them pose with masks and X-ray films of a pair of lungs. As a matter of fact the air pollution is heavily affecting people’s health. The numbers of patients with breathing problems and many other symptons of pollution are skyrocketing!

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Here is the interview in an abbreviated form:


Ulrike Reinhard: You’ve started this initiative India Open Data Association (IODA). What is it all about ?

Mrutyunjay Mishra, IODA (MM): Our cycle is so to speak Data.Knowledge.Action. We collect data. We make it publicly available in an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand way and – knowing what the data is all about – we trigger action to solve problems which are of public interest. Let me give you one example. Our environment project. We started it last year at Kumbha Mela. Back then we’ve tested our open hardware machines for collecting various environment data such as dust, …. . The results of this field test helped us to fine-tune our machines, make them more accurate and sustainable and we optimized our software – meaning sending the data to the server and make it available. The new prototypes were ready for the odd-even experiment in Delhi in the first half of January 2016. There we’ve had the chance to compare at specific locations the measurements of our machines with those cost-intensive machines of the government. And it turned out we were absolutely competitive – not as precise as the high-end machines which cost more than one cruore INR, but within an tolerable variance. Government officials told us this.

Our next step is to cover with at least 40 of our machines more locations in Delhi, send the data to our server and make it available on our website. We visualize the data so that it is easy to understand for the public and we provide it in cvs-format so that everyone who wants to play around with the data can use it. With more machines out there and with more location-based data coming in we can serve the public better and provide knowledge how good or bad the air in Delhi is. We assume once people know how horrible air quality at their own place is and how it affects their health – they will chance behavior. This is when our cycle Data.Knowledge.Action. is completed.

So the India Open Data Association functions as a platform …

MM: Yes, I’d like to call it a platform. Because its role is to connect ideators, makers, financiers and users. We’ll be able to very clearly show that Juxt SmartMandate, which is my existing business and one of the founders of IODA, led the role of the ideator in this environment project and also brought in some seed funding. We connected with makers in China, where we bought the open source hardware for the machines and we found makers in India who assembled the hardware and designed a handy box. A new start-up is selling these boxes out of Gujarat. Other makers were working on the software and developed a mobile app which users can download to receive real-time environment data of various locations. So this model is working. What we need to do now is to scale it. For this we need more money … but we believe we delivered a strong proof of concept.

… and IODA is setup as a membership model, a non–for–profit company. Why have you chosen this structure? Why would a for profit company join?

MM: The organizational structure allows us to have maximum 200 members – these can be individuals and these can be organizations who are really interested in the open data ecosystem in India. To become a member you pay an annual fee and the one-time joining fee which is very nominal – I think it’s 5000 INR one time and 10.000 INR annual. So it is affordable for many. And because the legal structure only allows 200 members we’ve created one additional layer called “associate members” which allows us to include more if needed. Members have one voting right. So the structure is a more democratic one. We’ll see how it evolves. Initially we are looking for academics who are working in this field. We are looking for organizations and open data enthusiasts who have been doing groundbreaking work. We are looking for mentors, people who can guide us in this whole initiative. So there is a set of initial 15-20 members coming in. Hopefully also some financiers who provide a small fund to initiate projects. That is the answers to the first part of your question.

The second part – why would a for profit company join? We truly believe in the power of networks and in the power of many. The problems which we are planning to address and hopefully solve – as I said earlier – are problems which are relevant for the public. For all us. These are BIG problems like air pollution, waste, network-coverage – problems which can’t be solved by a single company, a single maker or even a single government. They can only be solved when we collaborate and co-create in a transparent manner – the ideaters, makers, users and financiers. And this is why we’ve chosen exactly this structure – it’s for us the best existing legal structure to achieve all this. That’s our basis. So now suppose you are the ideator of an open data project – and “open” is the premise – and you run your own private for profit company. Just like my company Juxt SmartMandate does in the open environment project. You define the skill set needed to make this project possible. The goal is that within IODA you’ll find the makers who are interested in your idea, you’ll find scientist who evaluate your data and so on. If the idea is good enough it will be translated into a product and/or service and we’ll find funding – meaning all the people will get paid. Everyone is working for profit. So the people who are making this project happen are all for profit. But the frame set in which all of this happening is a non-for-profit entity – it provides the basic management and the platform. So it’s a fairly good structure that way.

Where are the potential revenue streams for a company?

MM: For us at Juxt SmartMandate we see various revenue streams. Our core business is data analytics – so for us it’s business to analyze big data streams, to reduce complex data and translate the emerging patterns into easy to understand graphics and visualizations (meaning not losing any information while reducing the complexity), we structure data and provide downloadable data-packages and we might even develop desktop or mobile applications for the end-user. The person who developed the environment monitoring kit for our first project started meanwhile his own business and sells these boxes. So there are plenty of revenue streams … I am sure.

You were also saying that everyone can use the data – meaning also people/organizations who are not member of IODA?

MM: Yes, that’s true. We’ll provide all the data we are collecting on our internet platform in cvs-format. Everyone can download the data packages and play around with it and explore and build. All the data collected in any of the IODA-projects will be published under the a Non Commercial 4.0 International Creative Commons license, which allows the data to be shared and adapted as long as the appropriate credit is given to the creator and all the changes made are clearly mentioned. Commercial usage remains with those who initiated, collaborated and funded the project.

What is the current status of IODA?

MM: Regarding IODA as an organization I can say, that it is registered under Indian law and ready to practice. The bank account is opened and we can now invite the first members to join. We’ve already spoken to a few organizations and people and we are happy to announce our first members soon. Our website with the basic information is ready for launch.

Juxt SmartMandate will bring in the environment project I was talking about earlier. The status is that 40 boxes including the software are ready to be rolled out all over Delhi. The project website is ready for launch and the mobile app can be downloaded. For a successful start it’s crucial to increase the number of users.

What other projects can you envision ?

MM: I can only speak for my own company. We are planning to bring in at least two more projects once the environment project is up and running. One is the crowdsourcing of network coverage problems and analyzing the main reasons why in India the network is so fragile in order to achieve a more stabled infrastructure. Another one is the mapping of crimes let say in the city of Chennai. The data is publicly available but it is provided in a way that it is basically of no use. We are planning to visualize it in a way that let’s say women can see on a map which areas in Chennai are known for which kind of crime at a certain time of a day. So they simply can avoid going there. This doesn’t mean that they can’t become victim in a crime – but it can certainly increase the chances NOT to become a victim. I am sure other people / companies have many more ideas … I am really curious to see IODA taking off.