It’s 2020 and awareness is key in all social, political and economic transactions. To take the initiative a notch higher, February of 2020 saw the launch of India’s first-ever digitally gamified quiz on data and facts. India Fact Quiz (IFQ) was conceptualized with the objective of challenging and correcting the biases of India’s youth and making them more aware of data and facts on India, around health, gender, population, environment, climate and welfare.
The championship, targeting youngsters between ages 17-25, is created as a launchpad to identify the brightest and most factful young minds of India. The past couple of years have had us introspect and face multiple layers and levels of privilege, biases and ignorance. IFQ furthers this exercise through its initiative urging us to reconsider our biases and uncover facts. It gives us the reality check we didn’t know we needed.
Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation India, IFQ aims to create awareness and appreciation for data-backed accurate information and rigour for fact-checking among India’s youth, in an engaging and entertaining format, and encourage the use of data and evidence in public discourse.
Indian youth challenged prejudices and biases more than lakhs of times by taking the IndiaFactQuiz 2020 in the last few months.
— India Fact Quiz (@IFQ2020) December 4, 2020
The quiz saw 16 semi-finalists compete from the North, South, East & West zones out of almost half a million participants. The 16 semi-finalists were students and young working professionals from across tier 1, 2 & 3 cities of India, and varied disciplines ranging from policy, medicine, economics to IT, adding diversity and plurality of experiences to the competition. They were quizzed on their biases and awareness on topics like gender pay gap, urban and rural infrastructure, health and disease control, climate change and renewable energy, government schemes and policies, and even Covid-19 related topics.
The championship finals were broadcast on Times NOW news channel. Regional finals (North & South) were telecast on Sat, 21st November 2020 (with a repeat on Sun, 22nd November 2020); Regional finals (East & West on Sat, 28th November 2020 (with a repeat on Sun, 29th November 2020) and the National finals were telecast on Sat, 5th December 2020 with a repeat that aired on Sun, 6th December.
The four finalists do not just hail from different walks of life; their different goals and thought processes lend a unique diversity to the competition. Their unique identities and aspirations wonderfully complement the competition and the change it wishes to further in the youth of the country.
Rajpriya Bharti, a 22-year-old studying her BBA, is the West Zone Finalist, aspirings to serve the Indian government in future. Talking about how the questions truly challenged her inherent biases about India, she shares, “The questions were critical and thinkable. For instance, I thought Tree Species exist more in the dense forest states like Madhya Pradesh or Karnataka, but it’s actually Goa and Jharkhand. This really surprised me. Another is the maternal mortality ratio which has decreased drastically. India has transformed a lot.”
Talking about the criticality of considering data and facts in the pursuit of enabling change and benefitting citizens, she adds, “they play a vital role in the development of the world. They help economists and policymakers in making new changes, applying new laws and regulations for a better change.”
But in today’s world, social media has its disadvantages too, with regards to the veracity of the information that is passed around. Talking about that, Bharti says, “Just by watching the things around us and verifying the information, incident happening around us, one can become factual and informative.”
The South-zone finalist, Shriya Ejanthkar, is all of twenty years but aims to give back to the community. The quiz helped her challenge her preconceived notions too.
“I saw an India that was far better performing than I had pictured. One such question was the percentage of married Indian women earning equal to or more than their spouses. The answer was around 44%, whereas I thought that number would be 12%, as I was under the impression a large number of urban Indian women do not work or work in lesser paid jobs, and most rural Indian women do unpaid work such as helping their husbands in the field of threading cotton. So, it was surprising to learn that almost half of the married Indian women earn as much as or more than their spouses”, Shriya explains.
The youth can do a lot to improve the quality of public dialogues around health, education, climate, gender too. But when asked about the one sector she felt closest to and wanted to work on, she chose Gender. “Gender equality is one that is extremely close to me, and we still have a long way to go in achieving that, in terms of societal attitudes especially. Equality is not just achieved when all girls go to school, it is achieved when women are equally participating in government, economy, and society, making decisions and having equal opportunities.
It is also achieved when society truly perceives them as equal, and we have a lot of problematic notions of gender roles, women’s modesty, etc existing in our society today that still needs to be quelled. If I had a chance, I would have more women participate in the economy by creating jobs and employing them. I believe that if we progress as an economy, that will have a direct impact on inequality in the country”, she explained.
All it took for Aditya Maurya, the North Zone finalist, was the tiny yet magnificent bee of curiosity to participate in the competition. His curiosity is equally supplemented with the awareness he holds, and the opinions he has on the impact of data and facts on the lives of citizens. “During TV debates or political debates, we often see so much misinformation and disinformation on such important matters. And viewers watch this and have such wrong impressions then. We don’t know the real picture. With data and facts, we won’t judge a society on just random thinking; it will help us know the reality of our country and improve it in the areas that need focus and attention”, he explains.
Aditya’s passions range from animal welfare to institutions in the country. He wants stricter punishments for animal abuse and also to rebuild the political and judicial systems of the country. His goal to be a successful entrepreneur only adds to the many feathers he wishes to have in his hat.
Pradunma Choudhary wants to build a career in finance. The 22-year-old East Zone finalist credits his motivations to be the adrenaline he gets by participating in such competitions. He strongly advocates for extending these conversations around change and citizen benefits to rural areas and in vernacular languages due to their inaccessibility and limitations in terms of outreach.
Talking about the relevance of data and facts in the same, he says, “Pure data and facts may not interest most of the public, and hence people will forget numbers in the long term. But what people will remember are conversations. Hence, we need to have more data-driven engagements, which will make people think and hence, benefit in the long term.” Further talking about the importance of dialogue and engagement with government to bring about change, he adds, “Public dialogue is possible when the youth realise that a dialogue can be established only through disagreements. Engaging for the sake of engaging is not enough. And to improve all that, the youth need to take a proactive dialogue not among each other, but to the government.”
To inculcate this engagement, he believes that the focal point should be education. “Children in metros have a head start on children in rural areas, catching up on that becomes impossible later. We talk about bringing equality in gender but that would become easier when we bring equality in education. I’d revamp the CBSE syllabus. It is simply terrible and diluted to the core. So is the undergrad education, the syllabi us outdated and needs an immediate freshening up.”
Delving into the core passions of gender, education, animal welfare and justice, these four finalists represent urgent issues that India needs to address. Their ideas, passions and statements highlight how an initiative like IFQ is pertinent in creating awareness with the help of data-driven facts and solutions. Head over here to take the quiz yourself and challenge your notions, one bias at a time.
For more details on India Fact Quiz, you can click here. https://www.indiafactquiz.com/; These are various handles of the initiative: Facebook: @IndiaFactQuiz; Instagram: @IFQ 2020; Twitter: @IFQ2020; LinkedIn: India Fact Quiz; YouTube: @DataBaaz.