The Road to Open Data

This project has two principal, inter-connected objectives; first, to create a credible dataset which would set standards for the city of Chennai and push for the necessity and improved quality of open data, and second, to facilitate citizen-generated data on the condition of urban infrastructure.  Primarily, we aim to generate an accurate, geospatial database on all the roads and footpaths in the city, as well as data regarding their perceived (and quantifiable) quality, as assessed by the citizens through the use of a toolkit. Thus, we hope to explore how we can mobilise citizens and develop their capacity to use government data to monitor urban infrastructure in their localities to support the demand for municipal data to be made open.

Chennai consists of nearly 3000 km of roads, which covers an area of 426 square kilometers - all of which are under the Corporation of Chennai’s authority. It is common knowledge that road and pavement maintenance accounts for one of the biggest expenditures in the city government’s budget. Yet, the crumbling infrastructure of roads and footpaths generates multitudinous complaints, with regards to the various safety hazards and garish inconveniences - potholes, missing manhole covers, speed breakers (or the lack thereof), missing footpaths and many more. Furthermore, there exists no accurate geospatial database of roads and footpaths, and the CoC currently has two entirely distinct lists of identifiers for roads - which is an obvious predicament. Moreover, it was found that city engineers did not use either of the identifiers in any of their official paperwork or records related to contractual jobs.

It would be far more efficient for citizens to take the reins and determine which roads and footpaths in their neighborhoods require repair. However, as of yet there are not many ways for citizens to assess and quantify road quality without having in-depth technical know-how, as well as the correct equipment. Nevertheless, they deserve the right to open data regarding the condition of their city’s infrastructure, especially given that such a substantial portion of their government’s budget is dedicated to this purpose.