Almost every month, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike makes claims about the launch of a new mobile application.
Ranging from solving garbage woes to the search for a toilet, the civic agency claims that using a smart phone is the solution to everything. But, a random look at their apps reveal a different story.
“I lodged a complaint for bad road conditions. The complaint was received and assigned to an officer. I tried reaching out to this person for a week, and he was not reachable. When I finally got through, he said that this was not his department. Calling the helpline too did not help,” says Hema, after downloading the “BBMP Sahaya app,” which claims to be an interface to report grievances for more than 20 departments.
This is the foremost app that has been developed by the BBMP and is also meant for a host of other related functions like applying for a tree felling permission.
And, though this function is actually working, it is seldom being used.
An app announced with much fanfare was the “Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator,” which is supposed to locate a public toilet according to location, user ratings and the type of toilet.
This has also come under severe criticism from those who tried using the app as well as from within the BBMP itself.
“It is not good. There is poor interface, showing wrong locations somewhere in the sea,” says Gajendra, a user of the app.
Another entrant into the BBMP’s family of apps is the “Swachh Bengaluru,” to be used for “identifying and capturing litter spots,” which has a host of complaints.
The BBMP had said that citizens could take pictures of offences like burning and dumping garbage on the streets and that the app would immediately send the information to the BBMP database and to the field officer, who would then take immediate action.
But the project seems to be a non-starter. There is no app by this name. Instead there is something called, “Swachh Bharat Swachh Bengaluru,” which again has a host of complaints ranging from no back-end support to non-workable GPS.
Another issue that has come under severe criticism seems to be that the developments of most of the apps have been outsourced to third-parties through tenders when it could have easily been done by the IT department within the BBMP.
However, the civic agency’s IT department was on the defensive, stating that except for the Swachch Bengaluru application which was yet to have a huge commercial following, their other apps were working.
“We have not got any complaints for any of the other apps. In fact, the BMPP IFMS used for issuing receipts and fines is heavily relied upon by almost all the officers here,” claimed Sheshadri T, BBMP Advisor, IT.
He added that soon all these apps will be integrated into one big BBMP app. “The work for it is almost done, we should be announcing it very soon,” he said.
Among the many mobile applications that have been doing the rounds in the city is an overlooked “trend” of former and current Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike councillors developing their own apps, mostly to keep track of the going-on in their own wards.
A random search throws up an ad for Thimmananjaiah Gowda, former councillor in the Peenya Industrial Area, Gangadhara H.N, former councillor of the Rajagopalnagar, and finally current councillor Umesh Shetty from Govindarajanagar ward.
“The app has been available on Google Play since November 2014. I had it developed so that mobile-savvy citizens could take pictures and update me on what happens in my ward. There are very few users now and I mostly get updates from people who know me or have my number on WhatsApp. It is quite disappointing but that is the reality,” said Umesh Shetty.
He added that the people who needed their help the most was usually those who couldn’t afford to buy a smartphone.
“Will a villager getting off a bus and needing to use the toilet go looking through his smartphone? No, he will just follow the signs, and it is the same with other apps like Mhealth an app for pregnant woman to locate the nearest health centre. I do not think a woman who can afford a smart phone will be going to a primary health centre,” he added
Will a villager getting off a bus and needing to use the toilet go looking through his smartphone? No, he will just follow the signs
What they do
registers and redresses complaints relating to most civic issues
can also be used to apply for permission for tree-cutting
focuses solely on garbage
— used for “identifying and capturing litter spots”
for helping pregnant women locate the nearest health centre
mostly used by social workers, still at the pilot stage
Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator
to locate the nearest public toilet in the vicinity
does not work most of the time.
used to issue receipts at the spot, mostly for penalties
— information is updated immediately to the main database
Another app that made news but still remains in the pipeline to help 198 councillors to check complaints from their wards on their mobile phones