Kumbhathon : Finding innovative solutions to social challenges – Times Kuwait

Around two years back, when two Nashik natives — Sunil Khandbahale, developer of khandbahale.com, a multi-lingual online dictionary, and Ramesh Raskar, associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab — met, the idea for an open innovation platform to create ‘Impact Entrepreneurs’ emerged.

Looking for the right opportunity to encourage people to identify and address community challenges through innovation, the two were presented with the Kumbh Mela festival. The Mela, arguably the world’s largest gathering of religious pilgrims, which takes place every three years in one of four Indian cities, is this year happening in Nasik.

The month-long gathering that witnesses the participation of millions of devotees also brings with itassociated challenges in the fieldsof housing, food, health, sanitation and transportation, as well as safety, security, communication, policing and crowd-steering. The huge congregation at Kumbh Mela gave Khandbahale and Sarkar the ideal venue to test their crowd sourced innovation platform, which has been labeled as Kumbhathons

The two consider such innovation camps, attended by citizens,government officials and corporate

bodies, as an ideal platform that can provide ideas and become incubators for innovations that could help local communities, as well as on a broader scale address similar issues in developing countries around the world.

Interestingly, experts believe that these Kumbhathons not only present an opportunity for entrepreneurs to devise technological solutions to the challenge of building large cities in ashort time, but it can be tested, firmedup and then effectively replicatedacross India. They believe that findingsolutions to challenges presented at these Kumbhathons could also act as test-grounds to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious initiative to build100 smart cities across India in the coming years.

Sandip Shinde, co-founder of theKumbha Foundation, a non-profit that has organized five Kumbhathon eventsin the past 18 months in association with MIT, says the project aims to develop solutions that can be rolled

out to other Indian cities. At the firstKumbhathon event, held in January 2014 in Nashik, the innovators chose 12 problems to focus on, including housing, transportation and sanitation, and developed prototypes of their solutions.

Some of those ideas have already emerged as mobile apps and projects:

An official Kumbh Mela app givespilgrims information about the routes they should take for bathing in the holy Godavari River, the center of KumbhMela in Nashik, as well as live trafficinformation, availability of hotel rooms and hospital beds and the location of stores and banks.

An epidemic tracker app gives doctors and authorities information for tracing any likely spread of disease during the pilgrimage by capturing location, gender, age group and symptoms about the patients.

Kumbhathons could also act as test-grounds to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious initiative to build100 smart cities across India in the coming years.

information about ambulances and hospitals in the vicinity. Meanwhile, the Kumbhathon’s crowd-steering project helps authorities determine how many people have congregated at a particular location using signals collected from mobile phone towers; an immense help in crowd management.

The pop-up housing project helps to conveniently house thousands of sadhus, or Hindu holy men, who congregate during the festival.

Through collective intelligence and collaboration the Kumbhathons are helping create numerous success stories. But these narratives represent only a small portion of the inspiring ‘bottom-up’ initiatives that citizens are developing to address community challenges across India. An effective and timely support to this venture, which could empower communities, deliver impactful solutions and enable sharing of effective models with other cities, would help tackle many of the challenges India faces.

Source : http://www.timeskuwait.com/upload/pdf/Times%20Independence%20day%202015.pdf

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