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Changing Cities: This App Is Connecting Citizens Directly To Government

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Written By: Sumit Arora, Head of Civic Tech and Digital Initiatives at Janaagraha

The quality of life in a city is often related to the quality of infrastructure and services. A city is a complex system that has many elements in play. There are various civic agencies involved to make a city function the right way. All of them have their own way of operating and viewing the city; for example, BBMP looks at Bengaluru through 198 wards, but the police department looks at it through 108 jurisdictions. Defining a civic tech solution for this complex system is always a challenge that must accommodate every department’s perspective, working models, citizens’ information relevant to their neighbourhood, and tools to solve them by providing the right inputs. They should offer the right way to interact and call relevant people for the assistance they require.

Civic Tech

IChangeMyCity is one app that allows the citizens to be connected to the government.

A technology solution that maps a city needs to take care of the complexity and growing ways of how the city needs to perform and respond to citizens’ needs and suggestions while mapping the quality of life transparently and collaboratively. Janaagraha, through its pioneering citizen engagement and open data platform, IChangeMyCity, has been working to bridge the gap between citizens and the governments. Since its launch in 2013, IChangeMyCity (ICMYC) has provided an easy way for citizens to report the issues they find in their neighbourhood and know about the quality of life around them.

With ICMYC and Swacchata Platform’s launch in 2013, we analysed cities, citizen usage, mapped various departments, and interaction levels. We have been working on ways to more straightforward, a quicker response from government officials to the citizens. We are in the process of reinventing I Change My City to I Change My City 2.0. The newer platform is being designed and architected in a way that it can be customised based on how each city and its different departments operate and what kind of information is most relevant to its citizens.

Critical elements of IChangeMyCity 2.0

To map a city’s operations, the following are the essential functions the platform will have.

City Mapping – The strength of any civic tech platform depends on the simplicity for the user. The simplicity comes through the intelligent architecture of the platform, which makes it run efficiently. The automatic assignment of tickets or operations of the departments is done through GIS-based maps that capture the city’s operational division. Based on these GIS-based maps, every service, operating zones, public amenities, and quality of life can be visually showcased.

Civic Agencies – The essential information of who is responsible for what work across the geography can be overlaid on the city mapping and showcased to citizens.

Tickets – Following the grievance resolution workflow from the original I Change My City, which consisted of a simple workflow for citizens to post a grievance without knowing the department and the civic agency responsible for the issue, the platform itself finds it for them. This module will be enhanced to take up any kind of work request, grievance, service application, and process based on the workflow of the relevant department.

Budgets and Ongoing works – It would be possible for the citizens to access, understand the budgets and the projects ongoing in the neighbourhood through the app.

Citizen Feedback and data collection – It would be possible to get constant feedback and do targeted data collection on specific aspects that need different technology implementation and budget priorities on what would need another data collection method.

Campaigns, events and volunteering – The platform will provide avenues for the citizens to actively engage. It will allow elected representatives to organise meetings such as ward committee meetings.

With the above modules and providing easy access to the platform through various channels like mobile apps, web apps or third-party applications like WhatsApp, this will also allow other civil society organisations (CSOs) or enthusiasts to use the information through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and even build applications using this platform. We are actively working on putting together all the experience gained over the years. Hence, the new version of IChangeMyCity can cope with the complexities of various cities. It can be implemented with ease in India and abroad, providing one-stop access to all information the citizens need to work with the city government civic agencies.

The article was originally published in Janaagraha’s City Politics Newsletter, March 2021.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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