How Entrepreneurs in India Are Using Data To Influence Government.

In an increasingly metrics-driven world, data is everywhere. Our information, decisions, and purchases are being recorded online, our opinions on products and politicians are regularly collected, and bureaucratic offices have growing physical and virtual troves of records. Without a doubt, large amounts of data collected is sitting ignored, locked away in overstuffed file cabinets or forgotten excel sheets.

Enter Startup Weekend New Delhi, Governance.

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This past weekend’s Startup Weekend in New Delhi, India, where all teams worked on projects related to the theme of governance, saw a number of projects focused on using data to create change. Team Juicy Visualizer, first-place winners, created a stunning tool for visually represented scattered data. Their app and website allow users to input data from any source and then automatically generates beautiful visuals that will allow users to better understand, analyze, and draw inferences from their existing data sets.

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The weekend’s third place winners, Happy Grievances, also worked on liberating existing information from the abyss. They designed a portal to take information from government grievance departments and make it easily accessible online, tying up with Juicy Visualizer to present it in a digestible format to politicians, academics, NGOs, and other interested citizens. This service has great potential for high-level analysis on trends within the country.

PinDrop, which took second place, is a system for connecting citizens to their local politicians to place complaints  – which, if ignored, are then automatically escalated to a higher official. Their app also allows users to visualize complaint data on a map. Similarly, team Reality Reporters created an app to report city issues by users’ geographic location. In the couple of days alone they had already spoken with a couple of government officials in the northern state of Punjab who expressed interest in using their technology. Both teams’ products are working on methods that will help data collected be seen and, ideally, responded to.

Other impressive projects took a slightly different focus. HopQ developed an app that allows metro-riders to input their route and automatically generate a corresponding QR code. When they reach the station, they can walk past the ever-long lines, scan their code, and receive a metro token – hopping the queue. Team iTeach, entering with an interest in improving education, worked on an online platform for connecting and assisting teachers. With the social network designed around their needs, teachers can exchange resources, share ideas, and receive online training. Team Cleanvertising tackled a difficult issue – trash. Through their model, businesses would sponsor trashcans and in return their advertisements would be prominent on the bins – a win-win in working towards cleaner cities.

We loved the ideas and products that came out of the weekend and were also impressed with the participants – who, it’s worth noting, remained focused and hard at work despite the neon Startup Weekend traffic-controller vests we were all wearing (you can get an event t-shirt anywhere, right?). Thank you Adianta Institute, SW Governance judges, mentors, speakers and of course participants for a great event. We will be following your projects and hope to see a good number being actualized. Your ideas and the impact they could create are big!

Also by Rachel: India’s Largest Election Inspires Entrepreneurs To Make Change.








How a Dubai venture hopes to gamify education and government

This post was originally published here.

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Gamification, as defined by PwC’s Technology Forecast, is the use of a wide range of game design techniques in non-game environments to motivate user behavior. When I last wrote about the ways that gamification can help startups make work fun,  it seemed that  few entrepreneurs were exploring the  implementation of game mechanics outside the realm of actual game development.

Serial entrepreneur Ahmed El Rayes is one of the few entrepreneurs looking to change that, by bringing the “power of games” to the Middle East.

After starting his first venture at the age of 17, El Rayes launched several other food and beverage companies in Kuwait before moving to Dubai to launch Gamified Labs, a gamification venture that focuses on gamification consultancy, interactive media, and education technology,  spinning out ideas built on the tenets of “engagement, involvement, feedback, and rewards.” In less than a year, the young startup has grown to a team of 12, aided in part by the ecosystem of talent created by Ubisoft’s Abu Dhabi offices (allowing El Rayes to hire “people that are already gamers!” as he says).

One of the team’s most interesting and upcoming projects is coming out of the education technology (or EdTech) arm of the startup. The “Educators Club” is the first online platform that aims to connect teachers and schools across the region. Teachers using the platform can upload a personal video résumé, undergo personality assessments, and provide “360 feedback” to one another to facilitate learning across the region.

The Educators Club also includes a “community” component that helps teachers collaborate online; the platform is designed to maximize engagement and feedback. To generate revenue, the platform charges schools a subscription fee for access to a database of teachers , ranked by their activity on the platform (such as answering the questions of other teachers on forums)  which may come in handy as recent political turmoil may exacerbate the shortage of teachers in the region.

Helping to reform education isn’t all that Gamified Labs has in mind, however. Perhaps the most interesting twist the company will put on achievement will be in the public sector. When pressed on the issue of “gamifying government,” Al Rayes is quick to illustrate its advantages in handling traffic control and supporting e-government.

In fact, Al Rayes goes as far as recommending gamification as an answer to the Arab spring. In his words, governments should “[i]ncrease involvement, increase engagement, increase feedback and create loyal citizens who feel that their voices are valued especially when they get rewarded for their participation! Gamification could act as an aid to prevent unnecessary violent springs.”

This might be a very optimistic view, but that’s not to say Gamified Labs hasn’t already received requests to work with different governments in the GCC. Only time will tell what the future of gamification holds for the Middle East.