India, as a developing nation, is tackling a new social issue everyday, with each year passing these issues are creating a number for itself. There are several bodies involved in the process of data collection, monitoring and evaluation that one would expect a cohesive and lucid data to be available during and after the decision-making process. However, the reality is far from it with an advancement in technology – data has become a new oil. Yet, a nation like ours still relies on old methods and techniques of recording data and other related activities.
The social sector is maligned with multiple developmental problems and issues to tackle in various areas such as sanitation, drinking water, environment, health, poverty, social infrastructure and necessities, sustainability and energy etc.Thereby making it even more important to have an access to accurate data for providing swift solutions which allows to take informed and adequate actions.
Did you know
“In India by the year 2050, water scarcity is expected to worsen as the overall population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion.“
Hence, Big Data is the answer! A collective understanding of an entire ecosystem of data encapsulated in an imaginary cloud which uses analytics to create, formalize and align the data as per the requirements and utilities.
Prukalpa Sankar realised the value of data and numbers early in her career and its solid reliability to impact any social cause. In 2012, she started the SocialCops, a data intelligence start-up. The community data platform was created to eliminate two major problems – lack of right & correct data and an ability to collate various forms of data to get valuable insights.
A Number Cruncher
Sankar is an IIT Kharagpur Biotechnology graduate and an MBA from Nanyang Technical University, Singapore. During her business education days, she had interned with top companies but an epiphany made her realize that her true calling was beyond the glitz of corporate life. She wanted to be a part of the change or to impact it in some ways. That is when she co-founded SocialCops with her MBA batchmate. While in Singapore, the company raised 20,000 USD as a seed capital by participating in various entrepreneurial competitions and initiatives held in India and abroad.
SocialCops – Copping the cause
SocialCops marked for a huge step taken by Prukalpa and her batchmate to shift their base to India and founding their start-up in Delhi. SocialCops, as the name suggests, has primarily been formed to address social and community problems which have been a part of our daily lives but had no concrete addressal.
As she explains in an interview with CNBC TV18 -Young Turks, ”Social Cops differentiates from other companies which too crowd sources data. The company leverages crowd sourced data from various stakeholders such as government bodies, citizens, municipal bodies, volunteers etc. and performs data analytics.” Allowing clean and relevant data to be communicated via different modes depending on the regions. For villages and remote areas with low/no internet connectivity, SMS and web pages suffice whereas for urban areas mobile-based applications performed well.
SocialCops has a four fold approach to its process – collect, access, transform and visualize. For data collection they touched base with various information sources like government bodies, rural volunteers, on-field workers and organisations.
Prukalpa Sankar and her team has designed a simple yet an effective approach for the volunteers, which allows first time users of technology to collect data using mobile phones, sourcing data from surveys, pdfs, online documents, census etc. and turning them into a tank of knowledge. That can be accessed for various parameters which can be utilized to influence and drive decisions. The app used, Collect feeds data on real-time basis which is tracked from a network of mobile-enabled human sensors.
Did you know
“According to the Niti Aayog, India requires an INR 40-trillion investment until 2030 to overhaul its infrastructure.“
Today, SocialCops has been deployed to aid data-driven disaster relief, improve governance and civic maintenance, tracking healthcare facilities and budget allocation etc. With a performance of 2x in its quality level and coming down to fewer iterations, the start-up has come a long way–when back in 2015, it recorded 6,000 unique registrations every month.
Bursting the bubble
SocialCops initially faced an enormous challenge of toiling through data recorded in files, papers and manual literature and records contained in an unstructured, indecipherable (some written in vernacular language) and incomprehensible manner, that has never been created or optimized in a digital format. Due to which, a disconnection was seen as a by-product of it, for instance in Nagpur there were 32 different healthcare facilities data systems. This made data non-consumable and messy, since it was stored in silos and larger parts of it had become outdated and redundant.
It was observed and seen that even after capturing data sets, there were inconsistencies like spelling errors, faulty recording, doubling of entries and multiple names. One such example of an eye opener was, when for the first time, they took to match two data sets of a village in India and got only 15 percent of match.
Did you know
“ The doctor-patient ratio in India is 1: 1457 ,which is less than the WHO-prescribed limit of 1:1000 ”.
The SocialCops brought an entire decision making process at one place. This involves collection of primary data, utilising it as secondary data merging it with internal data and presenting it through visual and interactive dashboards making the data consumable. Thus allowing to set an algorithm that provides a defined and subjective representation of producing effective and intuitive insights. Their model is capable to take on every kind of challenge ranging from inconsistent geographic boundaries, poor internet connectivity to lack of proper data storage and structures, as seen frequently in developing countries.
The start-up scored its first pilot project with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi during their initial days. When the team was engaged in conducting requirement analysis of their stakeholders which was necessary to build a strong system.
Over the years, various sectors i.e. NGOs, Governments and Corporate saw a tremendous potential in these data sets that enabled the SocialCops to partner with The Government of India, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the Ministry of Rural Development, State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra, NITI Aayog along with foreign governmental bodies like Government of Guatemala and Malaysia Police Force and other projects.
Amongst the non-profits, SocialCops has worked with leading philanthropies and organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Tata Trusts, UNICEF, Oxfam India, Swades Foundation, Next Billion, Goonj and Deepalaya along with the corporate of likes Unilever, PVR Nest, Michelin India.
The Future forward
SocialCops had been selected as one of the two startups along with Google and Twitter for the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s most promising tech pioneers.
In 2019, Prukalpa Sankar has been awarded as ‘Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the ET Prime Women Leadership Awards.
She was named in Forbes list of 30 under 30, Forbes 40 under 40, Top 10 CNBC Young Business Woman in 2016 and she is a TED Talks speaker.
Her startup has been a part of several reputable projects and collaborations of which some notables are DISHA Dashboard used for monitoring 42 national flagship schemes ,Business 4SGDs monitoring dashboard,The Live Laugh Love (TLLL) Foundation project around mental health. Presently working as a ‘Data for Social Good’ community and will continue to do so for future, helping large communities with SocialCops learnings by open-sourcing.
In the latest developments, Sankar and the SocialCops co-founder have started their newest venture Atlan, a data democratization company. With an entire team of SocialCops is now working towards scaling Atlan, with its work and learnings with an aim to help data teams do quality work.
Today, data has become an indispensable gold mine for building an efficient system and to ensure an adept management. With the mentorship of some of the top leaders and advisors such as Rajan Anandan (Former Managing Director, Google India), Manoj Menon (Former Managing Director, Frost & Sullivan APAC); Prukalpa Sankar and the team has brought an immense power of data at one’s fingertips.