Discussion with Vinay

I had a discussion about my project with Vinay Venkatraman on 20th November. It was really fruitful and I have a great direction out of it. One of the major concern in having a newspaper based system was the cost of running it. Printing a page or a full spread on monthly basis is going to be expensive for the municipality. Then there are other issues:
  • The voting slips not being disposed off properly littering the environment.
  • Since there is something to be inserted in the box it is difficult to ensure that people will necessarily insert paper. The box will become unusable due to this type of abuse.
  • Letting people comment/suggest adds a lot of subjectivity to the decision making. The answers should be straightforward Yes or No. Suggestions and comments could be conveyed through conventional means.

The voting slip designed for the OMR system

As I was not looking at the area of problem reporting (complaints) but rather into strategy and planning of the community (ward) Vinay mentioned that this is a referendum system. I did not think of it as such before, so as I got that term I looked in detail for what referendums are and how do they work. I will discuss this in another post. As the newspaper-OMR concept was not going to work we discussed about what other methods could be used.   Re-purposing the PCO (coin box phone): Using public telephones for informing people about the question/issue to be answered along with the visual poster. So a user can go to the public telephone, pick up the receiver and dial a particular number after which he will be instructed about what steps are to be taken. He will have to scan his thumb on the scanner which will check with the UID database whether he has already voted or not and what community (ward) the user is from. If the user has not voted yet it will dictate the question for users community and ask for answer by pressing 1 for Yes and 0 for No (for example). The user will receive feedback about his vote being registered (or not) and the transaction will end.

Typical pay phone in India (Image source : travelingfor.us)

This was a great direction as these phone are not used as much since mobile phones have become ubiquitous. The only issue with this was that a person has to go to the phone and do it where as the newspaper was reaching to him at home and he was able vote whenever he was comfortable by going to the box. So, the system has to reach home. Due to this we started looking into who are the people that go home to home on daily/regular basis.   Door-to-door voting: There are many different people who provide door-to-door service such as newspaper delivery, milk man, postman etc. Who could be equipped with the equipment for taking such votes. The equipment could be charged by the bicycle / motorcycle the delivery person uses. This gives the advantage of the service reaching people rather than motivating a person to go to some place to access the service.

Postman in India (Image source : by Sean Ellis)

There are few things to be taken care of in this case. Such as the postman influencing the person while voting or supervising it. Usually for referendums the turn up of people is less. How could the service know whether the person chose not to caste vote or was simply not accessed by the postman? How the question is conveyed beforehand to the public (what medium is used to do so) etc. This concept seems to be interesting for me and all the mentioned issues are solvable. So, I am thinking of prototyping and testing this in various ways.  

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