A bunch of Twitter users have come together to gather information about power cuts in India and make an infographic map to map the geographical spread of power cuts across the country.
It all started when Shefaly Yogendra, a London-based investment consultant, saw a discussion on power cuts on her Twitter timeline and suggested to her friends, "May be you guys should tweet #powercut with location. The infographic will highlight the need for investment. To many people." The idea caught on. Users had begun writing about the time and location of the power cuts in their respective areas with the hashtag #powercutindia. Ajay Kumar, a software engineer, put up a web page that had started mapping power cuts in the country on the basis of the tagged tweets. Now the page can be accessed at http://powercuts.in. A Twitter account by the name of @PowerCutsIn has also been employed to collect data.
The page is built on an Ushahidi platform, which provides free software for information collection. While the updates from Twitter are being incorporated on to the map by a team of 11 moderators information received via the smartphone app updates the map automatically.
First city to be mapped, according to Ajay on Twitter, was Gurgaon. In the first couple of days, 46 reports had been mapped, at a rate of 9.2 reports a day. These reports have further been sorted into categories of "planned", "unplanned", "good news" (indicating no power cuts) and "voltage". An open Google document, which anyone can read, edit and shared, was also floated online, where people volunteered to do the data crunching and provide tech support. Those involved are trying to take this beyond an empty data-visualisation exercise and trying to figure out what to do with it.
Crowdsourcing, or getting a large group of people to provide data on a particular subject, has been a rage ever since the web went social. A similar mapping exercise, which maps mobile network problems in India, already exists online by the name of Mobile Telco #Fail.