Pratham Mittal believes a media platform cannot exist without being biased. But wait, he is not building a media platform. He is building a digital report card for politicians in India.
Yes, you heard that right. A freaking report card. And just like in school, you can get bad marks.
Mittal has built Neta, an app where people from villages to urban areas can rate their politicians on a daily / weekly basis. The ratings given to politicians can change depending on the work done by them in their local constituency or nation wide.
But there was a minor problem. His research pointed that people who vote in maximum numbers are not in urban but rural or semi rural areas. Add to that, people in rural areas are not really into mobile apps. “We are like Zomato. We help you rate. For leaders, public perception is everything. Just like Zomato, if you rate goes down in Neta app, maybe it will effect your standing in the next elections.”
But Mittal, an alumni of London School of Economics, decided to take non app approach to grow his app. His 22 member team created a network of Anganwadi and Ashawadi workers who go door to door to record people’s views on their local political leaders. They also get their views on sms or through IVRS.
They have also tied up with wallet companies through which they give incentives to these workers in rural areas who are helping spread the Neta platform. Many other organizations Mittal says who help spread awareness around Aadhaar and farmer schemes have also tied up with them.
Speaking to the TheBigScope, Mittal says , “Seventy percent of downloads come through because of our workers on road and also due to word of mouth. People vote in India specially in rural areas. Cause politics is their first love.”
The Neta app collects millions of data sets based on people’s opinions and Mittal points out that a mirror copy of the data is kept on the blockchain. He says he has done this so that no one can misuse the database. “Even if say I go rogue tomorrow and misuse the data sets on my server, people can still validate the results from blockchain.”
The app is currently active in Rajasthan’s Ajmer and Alwar and helped garner 2.5 million votes few months ago during Karnataka legislative assembly elections “We predicted 93% constituencies currently with an error margin of 3.5% in Karnataka. We are not like any other media company who come to judgement’s based on exit polls. We give database election results.”
He reiterates that they do not run analysis on personalities, religion or any other social factor.
In terms of veracity of the data collected, they look at various parameters. The team looks into Aadhaar , Truecaller and geo location database to figure out whether the person applying the vote belongs to a particular area or not. They give risks score to each vote and so far Mittal claims their error rate has been 6 to 7 percent.
He had earlier created Outgrow during his third year at University of Pennsylvania. Outgrow is a polling platform used by media companies all across the world. It is used by the likes of The New York Times and Gurdian.
Mittal plans to launch the app officially at the residence of ex President Pranab Mukherjee in the next couple of weeks. Further, he plans to add better data visualization methods to their current data-sets and even present them in video formats for people and expand their footprint keeping in mind the 2019 general elections.