Take the app route to the PMO

App challenge

By learning Photoshop as ninth graders, Raghav Sarin and Prajwal Seth tried their hands in the field of design. But what started as a fun way to earn some pocket money soon turned out to be their road to developing the first mobile app for Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

“The biggest push for us was winning the Startup Weekend (a tech meet-up) in 2012. We then got to know about the contest to build the official mobile app for PMO in March 2015 and we decided to give it a try,” Sarin tells Metrolife.

The contest was launched last year under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative – MyGov. Team Sankrit comprising Sarin (team leader) from Sri Venkateshwara College, Delhi University, Seth from BITS Pilani Goa, Gyan Lakhwani from Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Technology, Naman Dwivedi from Delhi Technological University, Pranav Sethi from Stony Brook University, United States and Preet S Khalsa from BITS Pilani were adjudged the winners.

“When the announcement came, we were ecstatic. It’s a great feeling to have won something on such a large scale which we never thought of. Six months of hard work from conceptualising to putting together a team of six who were spread out in different places to the final stages of the app, the entire journey has been taxing but worth the effort,” says 18-year-old Sarin.

Partnering with Google, the contest is considered first of its kind crowdsourced effort to build a mobile app for a public office. While the first phase of the contest received more than 9,000 entries and 50,000 ideas, more than 110 mock-ups were submitted in the second phase and 10 were shortlisted. The final five teams – two from Chennai, two from NCR and one from Pune were selected for their wireframes (blueprints) and mentored for six weeks by Google engineers.

The app is expected to allow users to directly submit suggestions for the PM’s Mann Ki Baat radio capsule, a listing of selected questions from Twitterati and his replies along with options for users to seek appointments with PMO officials and location-based alerts in case of emergencies.

“Though we had a given blueprint of what we were expected to come up with including efficiency of the app, for us, the focus was on making the design speak for itself. The top three points that we concentrated on were inclusivity or usability for all, maintaining high quality and prestige of the PMO,” describes Sarin who is currently a first year student of Economics Honours.

As “virtual hangout sessions” came to the rescue of the team by bringing them together during the course of working, Sarin avers that apps are fast becoming the “first getaway to the internet”. “Apps are truly emerging as the first getaway to the internet. So, it is important to keep in mind that the design is user-friendly and simple,” says Sarin.

While the app is being refined before its formal launch in February or March, the winners are looking forward to their prize ,which is a trip to the Silicon Valley headquarters of Google.

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