Skip to content


Uttarakhand Government’s Operation Connect and How can you help!

As a part of the ongoing efforts by the government, the task of reaching out to families seeking information about their relatives has been on top priority by the government officials. I was amazed at the government’s quick deployment of the “people finder” on the Disaster Management portal of the Uttarakhand government which initially had information about tracking rescued people, since army was involved in evacuation or search & rescue. Progressively the site kept being updated with more information and data being gathered and managed by the Uttarakhand government. When I saw a lot of people online volunteering to help with data collection and putting everything at one place and have their own versions of the same task which was already done by the government round the clock, I was just worried about this whole duplication of effort as something that was adding to the chaos. While I was traveling back to India and was in London, I just called the District Information Officer of Rudra Prayag, to check information and convey that some of the documents of rescued people that was being uploaded on their website were actually printed and scanned documents (some word documents but still printed and scanned and some hand written, both in English and Hindi – ref: Screenshot) are not easy to search and ask them if they can upload at least in some searchable format. That is when he informed me that although some of the documents being collected at district offices are scans, there is a separate team that is also translating (from Hindi to English) all the data and putting it online on their own DMS site in searchable format. Now on the same website, you see all the information being managed by any of the offices being put at one place. Like the website says: “This search module has been provided to track a person as per the information provided by concerned District Administration. The original list provided by District Administration has been re-entered/converted in English at State control room to facilitate its users.Kindly refer original list of District Administration to confirm the information provided through this website.” Ref: Screenshot here & Direct website link here.

There is a lot of information coming in and the need to effectively communicate to the families any relevant news and update the status of missing or found people on the database regularly. One of the ways the government is doing it is by Operation Connect where they are reaching out to the general public through Facebook and Twitter and integrating all that information coming in from existing mechanisms like the phone helplines and feeding everything on the central DMS system. They are also reaching out to any organisations, NGOs working on ground who are helping affected people with relief materials to supply them with the information of the people they are taking care of and make use of the already available information.

Mediums – Phone, Fax, Email, Facebook, Twitter. So organisations or people can report or access information about missing or found people using any of the mediums. The team aggregates information from all sources and puts it into the centralised database and ensures any new information is instantly added to the database and made available.

The team designed a form that any organisation can use, they have the same form available on their Facebook page under and various other information being put up online which is also being fed to their twitter feed.

The page has links to the following information and forms that you can access/fill up on the facebook page itself like the List of Missing People, Report Missing Person, Report Found Person, Request Supplies (for people/organisations on ground involved in relief), Sponsorship (for donations) and Operation Connect Found People (list of people found using this operation). You can visit their facebook page directly to check those forms or check their screenshots below or by clicking here.

How can you help?

  • Encourage people to use the government official site/tools in case they are looking for someone.
  • Spread the word. A lot of people are still missing and being found. Just by sharing a photograph of a missing person you might be able to connect missing families.
  • If you are involved in relief activities and are part of an organisation – provide them with any information you have over email or any other medium you have access to (refer contact information below). Help all information reach a central place, and prevent scattering of information everywhere.

Contact Information:

  • Official Site: http://dms.uk.gov.in/ (this website also has links & information on how you can donate directly)
  • Email: missingcell.uk@gmail.com
  • Phone: Missing Cell – 0135-2104175, 0135-2104176,0135-2104180, 0135-2104181 (more numbers on the site)
  • Facebook. Twitter.

If you look at the following images, you can see the team behind this is engaging and constantly updating information.
operation-connect-uttarakhand-united-10July

operation-connect-uttarakhand-1

operation-connect-uttarakhand-2

Posted in Nation, Technology.

Tagged with , .


Is Internet truly free or just an illusion of a border-less world?

Being a defender of technology, as a designer, and a person who likes to hold a belief that human beings still have control over artefacts or technology that they make, it is hard for me to envision that a free medium like the Internet could be controlled by the people in power. When I say Internet is a free medium I mean to go back to the reason why it was created. It was supposed to be a decentralised system and yet whose primary task was to connect different computers situated across distances in order to exchange information and facilitate communication. The philosophy of freedom and liberation revolving around the Internet is getting challenged constantly by social and political structures of our society which are in a position to influence or control the way the Internet works. In my paper I consider the Internet as a technological development and try to focus on a specific technology, namely, the Name Server (NS) or more broadly, the Domain Name System (DNS) which is one of the main components of the Internet architecture. This paper will investigate the name server as a technological artefact of internet use in our daily lives.  Using the name server as an entity, the paper will reverse engineer the architecture to identify structures of control, agency and power. Using this analysis, I would try to find an answer to my main research question, “Is Internet truly free or just an illusion of a border-less world?

…..

my intention is to highlight the fact that the world we live in has political boundaries and just like citizens are governed by law of their country, the entities controlling the Internet architecture are also governed by country specific rules and regulations. I also refer to any other entities that can control a DNS and refer to the physical location as a site. Hence, by reverse engineering an important component of the internet architecture that the DNS is, I will try to highlight the fact that, this is how the Internet was designed right from the start and draw up to my main research question. In my attempt to answer this question, I focus on two subsequent questions which will help understand the implications clearly. The first, “Who is controlling the Internet?” identifying the various entities that have agency and control over the Internet. And, the second question, “What does Internet Freedom mean?” in which I shall explore some of the definitions of the word Internet freedom being talked about. ”

Since this is one of my first attempts at writing an academic paper, I would appreciate constructive feedback.

The PDF version of this paper I wrote is available to download here: http://aju.bz/sps2a [E&OE] Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

You can also read it online without downloading on Academia.edu

This paper was written as a part of the course Society, Politics & Technology conducted by Dr. Mark Coeckelbergh under the graduate program Philosophy of Science, Technology & Society at University of Twente. I would like to thank everyone in our class for the engaging discussions and inputs that we had in the course.

I would like to thank Jacob Greer for providing some quick proof reading help and feedback.

The paper is dedicated to the memory of Aaron H. Swartz (1986-2013)

Posted in PSTS, Questions, Technology.

Tagged with , , , , , .


Adding Audio embed plugin on your Ushahidi Site

On the PowerCuts.in site I needed a way to integrate the audio reports and play the audio files right on the report page, if not directly on the map(someone do that already?).

I found a workaround and picked up the Youtube Embed plugin by David Kobia and modified it to suit the need.

Steps: (releasing without any warranties, only try if you know what you are doing)

  1. Download the following files. One is a plugin and other is the player script.
  2. Unzip and upload the audio.zip in the /ushahidi/plugins folder of your site.
  3. For the purpose of this deployment I had setup a separate (sub)domain and put all the audio files under the folder including the player files. So you need to ensure that the audio files are converted to mp3 format and put under the same path and domain. (This can be tweaked in the code of audio.php line 63)
  4. Modify line 63 with the path/location of your audio files. Replace audio.yoursite.com to your URL where you put the audio files.
  5. Unzip player.zip under audio.yoursite.com path as well.
  6. Activate the audio plugin from the Ushahidi Admin dashboard under Addons.
  7. Once the plugin is activate, whenever you create a report and mention the full URL of your audio file as http://audio.yoursite.com.com/index.php?file=audio-file-without-mp3-extension in the description field of the report, it should appear with the player. (Note that the .mp3 is removed from the file name in the URL)

If all went well – you should have something like this on your Ushahidi reports page. (tested upto v2.5)

Posted in How To, Technology.


The Internet Never Forgets & Digital Zombies

Technology has been shaping our society in different ways since time immemorial. Today, staying connected has become an integral part of our work and personal lives. We extend our presence through personal devices like laptops and mobile phones which are connected to the Internet all the time. We share pictures, thoughts, messages using various online tools and platforms with our friends and, sometimes, even the whole world. By using services like Email, Social Networking, Document & Media Sharing we have all started existing virtually in today’s world. This retreat from the natural world is becoming more evident. With the never ending extremity of the Internet and the amount of information that is stored and shared on a daily basis, it’s almost impossible to imagine if there’s an end anywhere. What happens to all the data and the messages that you had in your private email account, if someday you stop using it. If you actually close or delete your email account and believe that all your private conversations are also deleted, are they really gone? There is a saying that the Internet never forgets anything and once it’s out there it’s there. Is that also true with the data storage technologies behind the Internet? What happens to those thoughts and messages that you once shared on some public social networking site when you delete the account? They do get indexed and archived by some search engine somewhere.

But all these questions are somewhat related to the technologies that exist around the Internet. That’s how the Internet, today, works. There is some program, some web engine or someone making a copy or archiving or mirroring (making copies) somewhere. Have you ever wondered, what would happen to all your data when you actually die? How would your friends feel, when they can still see your name in the form of your online identity in their friend list?(Or even on your WhatsApp list. I still see my friend who died last year on the WhatsApp list where the last seen date/time is the day she died). All your messages and pictures that you might have posted privately or publicly will still be floating around on the World Wide Web long after you are gone(her Facebook account still exists, although Facebook has a feature – Check this and this). If we look at our history and consider an example of a normal person, there would be no record kept when a person died ages ago. That changed gradually and till the recent past, the person would exist as a record in some government books after he or she died. But today, not just formal records but private pictures, thoughts and messages will still exist if the person was a highly social person on the Internet. Private of course is a wrong term to use here, because once you post something even among your closed circle of online friends it’s no longer private.

What if someday you get an email from a dead person who you once used to know? I have always wanted to have a button or a feature that once executed, erases all your digital history from every corner of the digital space we have today. Is that possible? Of course. And of course not.

Posted in Academic Life, PSTS, Questions, Reflections, Technology.