This sound and fury signifies something

This sound and fury signifies something

Two years back, Varun Banka, a student of computer science from a Singapore University wrote a blog on a burns victim in Bihar. Varun did not think that somebody from the US would contact him to provide financial aid to the victim.

“But it happened. That person wanted to help the lady and we worked as a channel in providing monetary assistance,” says Prukalpa Sankar, co-founder of Social Cops, who along with Varun decided to use the technology to provide a helping hand to the needy.

But their approach was different as they fine-tuned their objective. “When simple technology can impact lives, then why not use it to the maximum. We decided to collect the data from the ground level and use it to solve the social and civic issues,” says Prukalpa who together with Varun started Social Cops in 2012.

Initially, Social Cops was a two-member enterprise which expanded with the addition of three more members, Vikas Plakkot, Bhargavi Sakthivel and Samarth Goel. While Samarth is the marketing manager, Bhargavi is the data scientist. “We work with community stakeholders ranging from public agencies, corporates, NGOs to local volunteer groups and resident welfare associations to harness citizen voice, as a resource to solve problems related to civic issues, women’s safety and public health,” says Bhargavi.

For this they crowd-source citizen voice on any issue through missed call campaigns, IVR systems, voice surveys, web application and smartphones. “We allow community stakeholders to engage community members through automated outbound voice calls, outbound SMSes, notifications, email newsletters and social media.

Interestingly, they also make customised smartphone applications specific to the different communities they work in. Their campaigns like ‘Steer to Safety’ and ‘Safe’ are complemented by smartphone applications built to create long lasting impact. Steer to Safety was a unique initiative to sensitise children about road safety in Delhi. Likewise, Safe was an initiative to make women feel safe City roads.

“Every neighbourhood needs community watchers – people who can step up and take responsibility for the safety of women. Through this programme as a community watcher, you will be notified when a girl is in trouble in your neighbourhood. You will be connected to the other community watchers in your neighbourhood, and together, you will be the first responders to women’s safety in the case of an emergency,” explains she.

“Through the collected data we devise a process that can lead to a big impact instead of just making a noise,” says Prukalpa.  

Notably, their campaign on getting streetlights installed in certain dark stretches of Ranchi in Jharkhand was successful. They also partnered with an NGO to monitor the quality of midday meals in Bangalore schools.

“We also collected information on the public toilets in Delhi and the misconception among people related to cervical cancer,” she says.