Meet India’s first Innovation Officer, Better Chennai Company’s Azhagu Pandia Raja

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The 31-year-old Azhagu Pandia Raja’s place is exclusive within the nation, and he says the Innovation Centre is working with residents to unravel the town’s issues.

In the course of the preliminary phases of the primary wave of the pandemic, the Better Chennai Company launched a COVID-19 Monitoring App on March 27, 2020, to trace areas within the metropolis the place individuals had signs and to map out containment zones. This was the brainchild of Azhagu Pandia Raja, who later grew to become the town’s first Innovation Officer — a newly-created place for the 31-year-old — earlier this 12 months. The place at present exists in only a few metropolis firms on the planet. Previous to this, he labored within the UK as an engineer and was later a Sensible Cities Analysis Fellow with the Minister of Housing and City Affairs. 

In an interview with TNM, Azhagu stated that whereas the app had turn out to be redundant as a result of intensive unfold of the virus, based on him it was helpful to optimise assets within the preliminary days, and crossed over 1.5 lakh downloads on the Play Retailer. Initially, he stated that it helped analyse and predict future unfold. Whereas there have been some adverse evaluations for this, Azhagu stated that the response was largely constructive. Nevertheless, when the virus unfold considerably, the town company moved on to different apps for fever surveys and residential isolation administration which have been for use by volunteers and company workers, and never by the general public. 

“We created a device the place volunteers may map all of the fever signs throughout the town in order that we will help needy individuals in addition to predict the evaluation and unfold,” he stated. 

The outcomes of utilizing such know-how, Azhagu says, was utterly totally different from what they initially thought it will be, he says. With this, he provides that they have been in a position to establish inefficiencies of their course of and that utilizing such apps helped the Company with extra accountability and transparency.

“Fairly than a non-digital format, the place we often get all enter by way of paper or some excel sheets, right here, we’re in a position to get actual time inputs and we have now intensive dashboards. We’re in a position to see whether or not that individual particular person or worker is definitely going and monitoring the particular particular person as a result of we’re additionally getting the GPS location of the place the entry is being made. It supported the system to make it foolproof, as individuals know that they’re being monitored. The effectivity of the work elevated general,” he stated. 

Nevertheless, Azhagu says that they’re overcoming the digital divide, particularly for vaccination. Now, he says whereas the town has rolled out an app for individuals to enroll in vaccine slots and is on the market in Tamil too, he stated the primary query for them to reply was what individuals with out entry to the web or a tool, or in the event that they didn’t know find out how to entry the identical, would do. 

“We created devoted name centres and gave the decision centre entry to the portal. So, if somebody would not know find out how to e-book one, they will name the centre and other people within the middle will e-book it for them and an SMS will probably be despatched, which they will use on the centre. We didn’t need the digital divide to be a motive which might cease individuals from getting the vaccine. Because of this there are walk-in slots too for individuals who can’t entry it, he provides.

The usage of numerous apps in the course of the pandemic, resembling Aarogya Setu and the CoWIN portal, has been criticised — amongst different causes — for making boundaries. Azhagu says that know-how can’t clear up issues and solely processes can, which could be strengthened with the assistance of know-how. 

“Expertise can’t clear up any downside. Processes can clear up issues, know-how strengthens the method. Expertise will carry accountability, transparency, energy and integrity. It can make the method easy. Folks should work and processes should work. It must be sustainable and a stable, systematic course of must be in place.  That must be inclusive and this course of could be simply monitored if we allow it with know-how. Expertise is a device and never the best way to unravel the issue,” he says. 

In one other scenario, Azhagu stated that the income division’s collections late final 12 months had fallen as a result of pandemic as the main target was on health-related actions. In an effort to inspire individuals, Azhagu stated they introduced gamification into the system and created a ‘league’ referred to as the Better Chennai Company Income League and made the company’s 15 zones as 15 groups and began a contest amongst them. He in contrast this to the IPL, the place zones acquired factors for each taxation and awards resembling ‘Man of the Match’ and ‘Man of the Sequence’ got out.

When the concept was pitched, Azhagu says that officers have been hesitant to greenlight it as a result of gamification hadn’t been performed on this scale in a metropolis, however then gave the go-ahead. “The month we launched the income league noticed the very best taxation within the historical past of Chennai Company,” he says. Now, the division is trying to make this an annual occasion. 

Going forward, he says that the Innovation Centre hopes to actively work with the town’s residents, and is establishing an internet site for individuals to achieve out to them. If a scholar or PhD scholar is engaged on particular analysis, he provides that they will now connect with the company and work below it if the issue they’re engaged on aligns with the issues being confronted by the Company. Begin-ups, too, can check their options, he says, stating that it’s how the apps for controlling the unfold of COVID-19 happened. 

 “We’ve the potential to offer this type of piloting section to startups, in addition to volunteers to return and work with us,” he provides. 

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