October 27, 2006

Small effort makes a big data bank

If you have a list of utility phone numbers stuck on the door of your refrigerator, make sure you have the phone numbers of the local doctors, pharmacies and ambulance services.
With the monsoon having broken true and well this past week, these numbers will come in handy.
This was not a coincidence. On my table landed a little booklet. A booklet listing all the doctors in Raja Annamalaipuram.
This work has been a labour of love by a retired doctor of this neighbourhood. Dr. R. Chandrasekaran admits that the compilation has been done in a hurry and promises to include more names and phone numbers in the next edition.
But all of us who received this little booklet are grateful to this doc. He has even included the contacts of the local blood banks and ambulance services.
He took the effort to rope in a prominent tailor of this area and plonk his advertisement on the cover. It was probably a way to fund this venture and a better one than having a leading pharmaceutical company coaxing us to gobble a string of capsules this monsoon!
The booklet though makes me think - what sort of a local information system do we have in our neighbourhoods in times of the monsoon?
Can we call a number which can help us remove the trees that have collapsed in our garden? Do we have a contact to reach out to when we come across a poor family which needs a plate of steaming rice and sambar?
Where can we get help when we find that all the stormwater rains have clogged up and sewage is flowing into our campuses?
I did notice that the Metrowater put out a list of contact numbers of all its zonal offices - contacts we could use if we had problems with the sewage system or with the supply of drinking water.
The Corporation of Chennai will probably put out some phone numbers to use in case of emergencies.
But these certainly seem to be individual practices by some state-run bodies.
More importantly, there is a need to put in place a local information system for the neighbourhood on the eve of the annual monsoon.
I suppose this is where our newly-elected councillors, the City Fathers, need to put their heads together, and look at more innovative ways to address local issues and needs.
And this is where the experience and inputs of people like you and me will help elevate the work of the City Fathers.
We can sit back and wait till a Dr. Chandrasekaran releases the next edition of his local area doctors list.
But we could also join hands with people like him to use his idea as the building block for some thing bigger.

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