How One Bangalorean is Crowdsourcing Evidence for Legal Activism With Open Data Kit

Thejesh is a data buff. He picked a small road, installed Open Data Kit (ODK) on his phone and was good to go.

Here’s a first: Crowd sourcing evidence using tech to fight a legal case. Here’s the background: The Environment Support Group is fighting against the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). The point of contention is simple

The BBMP claims that during the years 2007-2013, the forest wing of the BBMP has planted 10,75,388 trees in the city and that on an average (across 6 years) 63.5% of the saplings have survived.

The Environmental Support Group sought to verify this claim. Now if they were to do it themselves, it was going to take them ages. So instead, the decided to crowd source the project. They called Bangaloreans to help on their website. They needed the data in a couple of days time when the case was up for hearing.

Leo Saldhana of the ESG told a newspaper

While facts and figures issued by agencies are usually accepted unquestioningly, we wanted to verify the details. But it was a tough decision as the next hearing was within two days. We obtained those documents and decided to get into action.

Now hundreds of people went out there to count trees. According to one local newspaper report, they found that only 30% of the saplings had had survived.

What is really fascinating to us is what Thejesh GN, one of the volunteers did to collect this data. Thejesh is a data buff. He picked a small road, installed Open Data Kit (ODK) on his phone and was good to go. “I took a picture of each tree on the road/footpath, picture most saplings individually and geo tagged them. Sometimes saplings were so close to each other that I couldn’t photograph them individually. I had to group them together,” he wrote on his blog.

Here’s a quick look at the map he created

Tree Survey

In a couple of hours, he had an excel with the details that needed to be sent. Whats important here is that the data collected with ODK is verifiable, Thejesh notes. Although the scale of Thejesh’s experiment is small, this is a very interesting application of tech. This takes crowdsourcing to a whole new level with legal activism.

Whether it will convince the court or not remains to be seen. Thoughts?

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