Indian Elections 2014 and the Use of Data

There’s been a lot of chatter in the Indian data science and data enthusiast community about how the 2014 Indian elections have marked a watershed moment in the way journalists and analysts use data to tell stories, as well as how campaigns target voters.

Here’s a talk (via @Datameet, via Hasgeek) on the ways in which tech has influenced campaigns.

DataMeet is soliciting entries for an upcoming conference in July that aims to review how data transformed Elex 2014. Take a look at some of the proposed presentations here, and vote for one. Or suggest your own.

Here’s Anand S of Gramener on how the company created their election visualizations.

The guys at Gramener spoke at Open Data Camp Bangalore, an event focused on data in elections. The sessions look fascinating, but unfortunately, none of the other presentations appear to be online. Check out the full agenda here.

As part of another upcoming H/H event, I got an email from Pykih, a data services startup that worked with FirstPost on the elections. They have a fantastic walk-through on their blog that details how they built out the web app they created for FP. They focus on the fact that they wanted to find an intuitive way to present both national election results and the more fractured regional realities upon which these results depend.

A lot of the credit for this increased use of data goes to India’s growing open data and open knowledge communities. As someone who’s followed along on the listservs and conversations (and co-organized an event in partnership with Datameet before) I’ve witnessed firsthand the dogged determination required to extract, compile and free data that the Indian government either refuses to make available, or makes available in fragmented and effectively useless form. A post by Rukmini Srinivasan on the Hindu’s Data Delve blog offers insight into how essential and transformative the Open Data community’s efforts have been. Srinivas Ramani’s constituency-wise map of voter turnout (which provides figures for both 2009 and 2014) in India is the type of project that could transform voter awareness in India if it were applied to other data sets. Imagine projects like Ramani’s about civic services, or constituency-wise health concerns? Imagine combining a data-driven analysis like this with the ground-level audio reports gathered by Gram Vaani, CGNet, and others, in an attempt to quantify last-mile effectiveness of government programs?

Elections 2014 created an opportunity for Indian journalists to experiment with the ways in which they use data. They also offered a rare opportunity for companies to sell visualizations to news organizations that might otherwise be wary of large outlays on data projects. Hopefully, elections also made a case for future large data-driven projects, in areas that go far beyond elections.

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