Chennai has a population of close to 90,00,000 (90 lakhs) and is expected to reach the crore mark very soon. Just for some perspective, let’s look at a few other numbers - London and even New York, perhaps have a population of about 8 million (80 Lakhs), each.
It is fair to state that Chennai is a little away from being a world-class city. The city is pided into 200 wards. Each of these wards have a population of 10,000 to 30,000 (the most highly populated areas) which is about the population of a village, and makes it easier to govern.
The wards all have varying degrees of infrastructural issues, and the city has quite some way to go in terms of extending basic services and amenities. Many of the citizens who want to get involved with civic issues tend to think of city-level initiatives, and are overwhelmed by the complexity of the task.
As most residents spend a major chunk of time within their own localities, they are probably going to have the most impact, there. This could be in the form of anything, from organizing street improvement drives and waste management programs to designing community level events that ensure a vibrant and inclusive community.
When Chennai TriColour had conducted a small survey with 100 respondents, asking the latter if they could name the ward they lived in - the more popular answer was 'no'. Out of the 100 participants, only 30 responded (with sometimes accurate and inaccurate answers). And, Chennai TriColour realized that 70% of Chennaites were not aware of the ward they lived in. And interestingly, it is at the ward level that basic amenities and services are delivered.
This got the Chennai TriColor team thinking about a much-needed awareness initiative. The answer came in the form of a simple mobile application that when fired up, takes the location into account to tell one the ward they live in. The mobile application also provides information about a citizen's zone (Chennai has 15 such zones), alongside the contact details of ward and zonal offices, which include email addresses, physical addresses and contact numbers, wherever available.
Thoughtworks, a global software development and digital consulting company worked with the Chennai TriColour team on this initiative.
“When we put down the idea of this application and approached Thoughtworks, they immediately understood the value of building tools to enable a community and pitched in,” says Vijay Anand, Chairman of the Chennai Tricolor Initiative.
In the event of the app's launch, Sudhir Tiwari, Managing Director at Thoughtworks India says, “It gives us great pride to partner with the Chennai Tricolor Initiative Trust, on their mission of transforming the way citizens participate in their own governing. This app will ensure that powerful information and the ensuing action is in the hands of a community's residents and stakeholders. The app empowers them to come together and solve issues, where the results are not only positive, but long-lasting as well.”
There is also an element to this initiative, where once citizens know which ward they belong to, they can join Watsapp groups that the Chennai TriColour team have created for each of the wards. Vijay explains, “We wanted to solve the problem of one - where citizens discover issues or inconveniences, think of a solution but often neglect to move forward. Usually, because they believe that they are the only ones affected. But, by connecting the larger local community, more people who feel the same way can come together and address the issue directly, or involve the relevant government authorities to provide a solution”
"It is a tall order to expect a lean government organization to deliver everything we need to make Chennai a world-class city. Democracy also has a “by the people” part to it, and we want to encourage citizens to be a part of the solution, to be active stakeholders in the governance process. This is one of the ways - albeit little - to facilitate that," says Vijay.
Download App (Android) on Google Play Store at “Whats Your Ward”
About Chennai Tricolour
We are citizens of the City of Chennai, coming together of our own free will, bound by a pledge and making a commitment to step up if and when the city and country would require of our service - both in everyday life and in extraordinary times.