Using Google Maps to Improve Safety on Roads

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Improving safety on the roads helps road users, prevents accidents and saves lives. It secures people while traveling on the roads. Improving and maintaining the road infrastructure can ensure on its part, safety on roads and give a great travel experience.

Impediments on roads such as  potholes, unmarked speed breakers, unmarked road turns, fallen signages, malfunctioning signal…etc can cause drivers to lose control over their vehicles and cause  accidents.  Such accidents can be prevented to a significant degree, if there are proper caution signs/marks and when the roads are properly maintained. However it is difficult for the civic agencies to monitor all the roads for maintenance issues . My suggestion would be to crowd source these to bring it to the notice of civic agencies using Google maps. Civic agencies should tie up with Google maps, where Google maps provides an option for the users to earmark locations where there are potholes, unmarked speed breakers and unmarked turns on roads. These markers done on Google maps can be seconded as authentic issues by subsequent users who pass through the same locations. Upon taking confirmation from a few users, Google maps should send notification to the civic authorities, who can in turn address the issue. Such notifications can also be utilised to point out broken/leaking public water pipes, damaged electric poles, unsafe electric cables lying on the roads, or anything which compromises the safety of the road users and which needs to be addressed.

For this purpose, Google maps should place an option on the map screen, to report a maintenance issue, by marking the location, adding specific details and upon submitting, a notification should be sent to the civic agencies.

“Be alert! Accidents hurt.” ~ Author Unknown

Apps to help during emergency – feedback to Google/Android

I am a great fan of Google and its ‘Do not be evil’ philosophy. I feel that the utility of mobile devices during emergency situations can be improved, if the below functions are added.

Emergency dialler

In a country like India, when a person meets with an accident and becomes unconscious, those who come to help or the police would want to find out the identity of the victim. They would also try to access the mobile phonebook to contact the family or friends of the victim. In most cases, mobiles are locked using passcodes, so as to protect personal data and hence is not of much help during such emergencies.

What can be done?

The screen 1 below shows the sample screen of a locked mobile, with an option for making an emergency call. When the ‘Emergency call’ option is clicked, screen 2 as shown below is displayed. However, screen 2 allows to dial only numbers like 911 or 112. The emergency contact for various countries differ and hence those too should be included. Now, to inform the family or friends of the victim or to find out the identity of the victim, dialing to a number on the phone book wouldn’t be possible as the phone is locked. So, when the phone is locked/passcode protected, the users should be able to access and dial a few numbers from the phone book. For instance, when the user taps on the ‘Emergency call’ option in screen 1, screen 3 should be presented instead of screen 2 as it is shown currently. In screen 3, the user should be presented with a list of 3-5 emergency contact numbers. These emergency contact numbers should be pre-selected from the phone book, based on a prompt from the device.

Ex. User should be able to map/assign the contact ‘Mom’ as Emergency 1, ‘Dad’ as Emergency 2, and so on, where ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ are contacts stored in the phonebook.

Screen 1

Screen 1

Screen 2

Screen 2

Screen 3

Screen 3

‘Track me’ app

What is this?

This app should help the mobile user to text, send a photograph of any person, place or thing or to send a voicemail, to a Google protected mailbox/application, which can only be accessed by Google and any investigation agencies.

Why is this required?

Case 1: When women in Indian cities travel alone in an auto rickshaw during night times, they are advised to send a message with the name of the driver and the registration number of the auto, to their friends or family members. This helps to track, in case of any unforeseen events.

Case 2: In the movie 127 hrs, Aron Ralston goes on a hike to the Blue John Canyon, without informing his mother. His mother was not aware of his whereabouts and files a missing complaint.

So, when a person is going somewhere without informing anyone, as mentioned in case 2 or if a person is travelling alone as mentioned in case 1, the mobile user should be presented with a track me button in the home screen. The user should be able to open the app and text, capture an image like the auto rickshaw registration number or record a voice on where he is going and for what purpose and click on save. This message should be saved to a Google server, which cannot be deleted by the user and should be auto deleted after 2-4 weeks time. When the person is found missing or does not return home for long, parents can file a complaint and the investigation agencies should be able to trace the whereabouts of the missing person using the message the user left lastly. Though the phone movement can be tracked using signals, this app would give an option for the users to relay his actual intentions of going somewhere or his whereabouts. Ex: Not all people are comfortable to disclose where they intend to go and what they intend to do there. This app would help to track them and at the same time protects their privacy.

PS:

1. The “Emergency Dialler” idea got implemented in Android N, released in Aug 2016.

2. Google has come up with Trusted Contacts app based on my app suggestion “Track me” which was sent to suggestions@google.com. Google’s new Trusted Contacts mobile app lets you connect to friends and family in the event of an emergency.

Making higher education accessible to the underprivileged members of the society

India is capable of becoming a knowledge super-power. Why not help the under privileged too be a part of this? There are quotas and reservations, but still there are people who cannot afford the cost of education.
 
What can be done in addition to the reservations? Though the law prohibits educational institutions from taking capitation fee from students, most colleges do collect capitation fees and donations, which are kept unaccounted and in turn becomes black money. When the government is unable to curb this, why not pass a bill, legalize it and make it taxable. Some might argue, why sell education. Even otherwise, it is sold, illegally! Rather than letting go off tax revenue, why not proactively account those.
In return to taking capitation fees, the bill should mandate educational institutions to admit 5-10% of students without charging them in any form and for any purpose, through a single window system facilitated by the government.
Such an amendment will not only benefit the underprivileged to get quality education, but also the government in terms of tax revenue.
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Submitted this idea for a better a future, as part of the Leaders of Tomorrow contest conducted by ISB, where I went on to receive the Best Profile award.
 

Tracking and auditing donations made to government and non-governmental organisations

There are instances where authorities misuse donations or public funds. For example, when some one donates furniture to government schools and if it is not properly publicised, and the school also receives government funds, the school authorities can obtain fake bills and show that the furniture were purchased from the government fund and loot the money sanctioned by the government. Donor will be under the impression that his money was used for a certain purpose and the government will be under the impression that government funds were for the same purpose.
 
One way to make donations transparent would be to create and maintain a public repository where all the donations made to government and non-governmental organisations and how it was used are reported and maintained, and can be under the watch of the government auditors.
This will not only reduce the leakage of funds but also improve trust and confidence among donors and encourage more donations.
 
 
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Submitted this idea for a better a future, as part of the Leaders of Tomorrow contest conducted by ISB, where I went on to receive the Best Profile award.

Creating a better nation with well informed citizens

How to do this on a large scale? One way is by extending the scope of RTI act, so as to include mass media, which has an important role in nation building, such that, 25-30% of the first page of all regional and nationwide news papers, 20-30 secs of air-time of all regional and nationwide TV/Radio channels during prime time be handed over to the government for free usage or for an yearly fees based on the newspaper’s/channels’ readership.

This space/air-time, which can be shared between the state and central government proportionately on daily or weekly basis, can be used to impart moral education, educate people on social issues and create awareness on legal matters and government policies. The government can use this to proactively disclose information on issues of larger public interest, which in some cases can reduce the number of RTI applications and also avoid harassment of RTI applicants.

Also, this space/air-time can be used to sensitise people on various frauds/scams and the modus operandi of scamsters. Preventing people from getting cheated will spare a lot of liquid cash which can be a growth booster rather than that money getting converted as black money.

Moreover, the government and politicians, most times spend lavishly to inaugurate new schemes or infrastructure facilities. Availability of such newspaper space or air-time can also be used to declare open any new schemes/infrastructures, which in turn will save money for the government, prevent chaos and traffic jams and save time for a lot of people including the government.

The newspaper space can sometimes be used to publish large scale tenders, which to some extent can prevent corruption in allotting tenders.

Publications of all such kind will create better informed and educated citizens and over the long run will pave way for a peaceful and better society.
 
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Submitted this idea for a better a future, as part of the Leaders of Tomorrow contest conducted by ISB, where I went on to receive the Best Profile award.