Tracking Power Cuts in India

Power Cuts in India is an initiative to collect power outage data, accessible in various formats, and provide it back for public use. Ajay Kumar, a technologist and social worker, leads a team of volunteers including moderators, web and app designers.

The potential is to develop a better understanding of electricity demand; it also highlights where there is a need for investment in power production and supply. Citizens can use the data to ask their power supplier company sharp questions. Ajay and his team are combining this data with news reports about lost productivity as well as potential ways to use cleaner alternative energy sources. Policy makers can use this information to think about how to address India’s growing need for power to continue its industrialisation and urbanisation plans. Energy companies can use this data for aggregate supply tracking. By putting the data in the public domain, anyone with access to the Internet can use it.

Best practices: PowerCuts.in resources

Ajay and his team implemented some deployment best practices including:

    Diverse report channels

Ajay answers some questions about Powercuts.in:

What inspires you?

My sole inspiration comes from the fact that the power cut problem in India stops me from thinking/planning and implementing any cool ICT4D projects, its restrictive. Also, media coverage is mostly about the urban power problem. In the case that I am able to draw attention to the rural power problem using this project, it would be a worthwhile effort from my side. This was the primary reason for me to jump on to building up a Ushahidi deployment instantly after a bunch of twitter users were conversing around this issue.

What have you learned from this? What are the next steps?

I want to reach out to Rural (non-Internet mass) where the real problem of Power in India is in its worst and is always ignored. I work in the villages, so I can tell from my experience living there. So, the next steps are integrating voice and SMS reporting. For both, I have service providers in loop. While I am testing the SMS API from my current provider which lets me both send/receive SMS. However for Outgoing SMS, Ushahidi currently has Clickatell plugin only. Which means for third party providers I will need to do some custom code inclusion or work arounds. Just like for incoming SMS, the workaround that I use is enabling the FrontlineSMS plugin and using its POST URL.

Phase I was twitter. Phase II will be SMS. Phase III will be publishing of Voice Reports – published on the map – someway as a sound cloud style link.

Meanwhile, a tie up with the utility companies to use this platform to issue information about scheduled power cuts to the citizens is also in the plans. The idea is to let these utility companies send us the schedule of cuts that would happen in the next week, and we would send out alerts using the native Alerts feature of Ushahidi – SMS/Email to
people who are subscribed to us.

What do you think Ushahidi can do to help community members? How can we improve?

I felt since the Ushahidi team is a limited resource, its difficult to get support instantly. But that’s the case with any FOSS project in general (speaking from experience during my work in Sahana). Documentation helps, so if you have updated info on your wiki it saves us (the geeks who can do stuff on their own too) a lot of time.

What do you and your team need help with?

I personally need a lot of moderation help. We are trying to standardize the incoming reports format so that it can be automatically approved using some engine. Something similar to Tweak the Text/TtT or SwiftRiver/Sweeper. Second is: Plugin development – API – that lets a webservice post a report + path to audio file, and puts it on the map with a “Player” like SoundCloud – so that the reports can be on the map with the audio report linked to it, with a player on the map.

To help Powercuts.in grow, contact Ajay Kumar: mail AT ajuonline DOT net or via Twitter @ajuonline

Review “Ways to Help” on the wiki
Design and Graphic Tasks
Help by Supporting / Promoting
And, review the updated Moderators Guide.

Powercuts.in Nokia app screenshots created by the Hazel Media team:

6 Responses to “Tracking Power Cuts in India”

  1. In India power cut is common problem. I agree that there is less supply of power but it is also due to wastage of power, many of us don’t use it properly.

  2. Very good use of Ushahidi platform!

    I plan to use it for elections survey in Madagascar but my problem is that I want to test it locally with my PC but I have a problem since basic installation: the installation cannot continue if sending e-mail deactivated because locally!