By Elton Gomes
Former President Pranab Mukherjee Friday launched the National Electoral Transformation, or NETA, mobile application. The app is a platform wherein voters can review and rate their elected representatives as well as hold them accountable.
Inspired by the approval system in the United States, the NETA app lets users rate their MLAs and MPs. Apart from this, the application is being seen as an instrument to track voter sentiment across various constituencies in India. In order to rate political representatives in the app, the app uses a combination of platforms including the app itself, IVR calls, and SMS. The app also offers offline activation wherein ASHA and anganwadi workers are leveraged to collect data on political inclinations.
The app’s objective is to foster political accountability by being an indicator of the ways in which a leader’s performance is being perceived. Piloted in February during the bypolls in Rajasthan’s Ajmer and Alwar constituencies, the app has been functioning in beta mode since the last eight months, during which it was also used in the Karnataka elections. The app is available in 16 languages.
The app is the brainchild of Pratham Mittal. Mittal, a 27-year-old graduate from the University of Pennsylvania, has already founded a polling company called Outgrow in the US and has moved to India to begin its operations here. He holds degrees in statistics and political science.
“The idea is if there is public readerboard, which has a public rating for all the politicians in a specific constituency, it would make them accountable … If they are checked every day, they will have this incentive to work hard, and work sincerely every day,” Mittal told Business Today.
Helping voters in making an informed decision
The official launch of the app took place at Mukherjee’s residence at Rajaji Marg. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Chief Election Commissioners S. Y. Quraishi and Nasim Zaidi, former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, former HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, former Home Minister Shivraj Patil, and MoS Social Justice and Empowerment Vijay Sampla were also present at the launch.
“A good democracy cannot function without informed voters, good leaders, accountability and complete transparency,” Mukherjee said at the launch, the Indian Express reported.
Kejriwal added the app “will be able to offer voter feedback to representatives on their performance”. He, however, cautioned manufacturers to ensure that the app is not used by politicians to further their agenda. Former election commissioner Quraishi said that such platforms will help in “creating dialogue, enhancing accountability, and getting more people to think about their political representatives,” Times Now reported.
What the app aims to do
Apart from allowing users to rate and review their MLAs, the app aims to serve as a useful indicator to gauge voter sentiment. It can also give political leaders an opportunity to showcase their popularity and attract attention of other political parties. Furthermore, as per the app’s developers, “Anyone interested in fighting an election can get featured on the app by gathering a 1,000 votes from their constituency,” the Indian Express reported.
In terms of gaining feedback on the app, Mukherjee said that feedback from users is critical as it provides empirical evidence for public mood and for a course correction. “Feedback from people is of critical importance… It gives an opportunity of empirical evidence of gauging public mood and doing a course correction,” Mukherjee said, the Indian Express reported.
When the app was piloted in the Karnataka elections, it had a user base of 25 lakh voters and it predicted the winners with 90% accuracy. The developers are working on a creating a database of Indian constituencies and the politicians representing them.
Once a user registers on the app, background checks are conducted to ensure a voter’s eligibility using a One Time Password (OTP). In order to eliminate fake voters, the company uses Aadhaar, the Truecaller app, and voters’ list to verify a users’ constituency.
Mittal added the app “will also help users make informed decisions before voting, unlike now.” “We are targeting Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, which are up for elections. We already have 35 lakh users in each state,” he said, Business Line reported. The company aims to have 100 million users on the platform before the 2019 general elections.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius