Talk by John Samuel Raja, economist and journalist.

How India Lives

John Samuel Raja’s startup working in the space of making public data available to everyone.

The Problem

Public data exists, but few people use it to make decisions because :

  • It is not clear if it’s free to use.
  • Data exists in silos, doesn’t talk to each other.
  • Expensive to subscribe to.
  • Formats like PDF that are not directly usable.

The Solution

How India Lives
NLP based search engine anyone can use without prior knowledge of existing data.

  • Single database
  • Searchable and comparable
  • Visualized

Data Access Policy

Data that is easily accessible

Data policy not formulated yet

  • Election Commission
  • State governments

Data that should be free, but is charged

  • Survey of India - there is a monopoly for maps in India (but some are free)
  • IMD weather data

Why is this useful?

Answering business problems

Example: a diaper maker wants to find out where the market is concentrated. This involves finding out where fertility rates are high, but they want people who can afford diapers. So they can look at places with high number of births in private hospitals and focus their efforts there.

Data journalism

Example: How was Gurgaon built? Did DLF get a disproportionate number of projects under a specific government? Did DLF really build Gurgaon?

Example: Ashok Khemka - honest IAS officer. Gets transferred almost every 6 months.

Graphical excellence is the well-designed presentation of interesting data—a matter of substance, of statistics, and of design. - Edward Tufte


Lessons from How India Lives

  • Data cleaners
  • Coders
  • Journalists/Storytellers
  • Designers

Data Ethics

What if Pepsi wants to sell water?

Pepsico wants to identify areas that don’t have drinking water and sell drinking water there.

Provide the source!

If you make a visualization, share the Excel or CSV file as far as possible so people can check.