Sowmya Rao is a Lawyer and public policy consultant based out of Delhi who is doing some commendable work using crowdsourced information and social media for calamity management. She is at the centre of this story because Sowmya used digital and social media to create a useful network to connect help to the needy for the Chennai Rain disaster. This led to the formation of Chennairains.org, ‘a knowledge aggregation and translation site’, which offer different sorts of aid and services are being offered to individuals and families who fell prey to the devastating floods, by matching those who need help with those who are willing to offer help. #ChennaiRains
Talking about the inception of the idea and means used to spread the word, Sowmya tells us that the whole idea was started and took off through twitter, when one of her twitter friends suggested that they should put together a spreadsheet citing all places where people can go to seek rescue and other forms of help. This little step got further translated into help and support from more friends and volunteers. It was only time before more and more people poured in to offer support in whichever ways they could, eventually leading to the formation of the website. “It’s a great platform to collaborate”, she said.
It is a modern day internet concept where people obtain information and other resources, by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet- Sowmya
The digital space has grown leaps and bounds and more recently the idea of ‘crowdsourcing’ has started gaining popularity. It is a modern day internet concept where people obtain information and other resources, by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet. In the words of Sowmya, “Crowdsourcing is great to get information, when a lot of people have various bits of information but don’t have the complete picture. Particularly when there is an emergency or disaster, when people are both trying to get information and give information. It’s a best way to aggregate it. You can look at as a very clean source of accessing aggregate information, so long the source that is crowdsourcing and aggregating is well set up.”
Crowdsourcing is great to get information, when a lot of people have various bits of information but don’t have the complete picture -Sowmya
She insists that it is a group initiative that just grew out of the spirit of team work. Talking about social media Sowmya said, “The great thing about social media is that it can be an equalizer, although you still need to know some amount of English and have access to – A) A Smartphone and B) Internet connection. If you do, you are out on an equal footing with a billion other people.” Although she does agree that in times of need like the Chennai disaster, a lot of people tweeted for other people who could not access the internet due to any of the above reasons. At other times you do need the knowledge and capacity to access digital space and benefit out of it.