The GalliGalli project MaiDalal & No Tension Sawari
If one decides to walk through Kathmandu, the small alleys passing through tall walls or backyards are a boon. They are unimaginable shortcuts that serve as viaducts, taking half the time to reach a certain place than the main roads. But it can also confuse you equally if you miss one little turning. With no people to ask around, you can be easily lost in the never-ending mazelike trail. In one of those lost hours, wouldn’t you feel relieved if you could get through a navigating tool?
Two siblings, Sakar Pudasaini, 32, and Surabhi Pudasaini, 27, are working on the same through their organization GalliGalli. They are trying to map the galli-galli, the Nepali word for the many narrow lanes that run throughout the city, through crowdsourcing and open street maps.
The initial idea started as Sakar returned to Nepal after one and a half decades and could not figure out the number of shortcuts in his neighborhood. But Surabhi wasn’t just interested in mapping the narrow lanes of the city. After working as a journalist and a researcher in Nepal since 2008, she was more interested in public infrastructures.
Therefore, they came up with the idea of mapping and collecting information of public transportation of various routes and creating an open source platform to easily access many government services alongside the mapping of alleys.
“Through the course of our planning, we’ve come to the realization that there’s information about everything in Nepal. But it’s not organized or listed anywhere in public spaces. And we identified that problem,” says Sakar.
They have divided their venture into two separate projects: MaiDalal and No Tension Sawari. MaiDalal works for easy access of the government services at different government institutions while No Tension Sawari is for the mapping different routes of public transportation services.
Explaining the idea behind the names they chose for the projects, Surabhi says that in government offices, there is always a certain procedure but they are not open or explained. So, many of us, without information get stuck or spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to figure out the procedure.
The GalliGalli Team at work. Siblings Sakar Pudasaini, 32, and Surabhi Pudasaini, 27 (standing).
“And there are considerable numbers of brokers or middleman in such offices who take money for completing your job. So, if you’re armed with information, you can cut the middleman and be your own ‘dalal,’ referring to Mai – own – and dalal – broker,’ she adds.
No Tension Sawari, on the other hand, helps you navigate the public transportation networks in the Valley. As its name suggests, you need not stress over the information regarding routes and chances of availability of vehicles, with additional pictures to identify your ride, and a fare predictor.
Both of their projects are open-sourced and crowd-sourced, allowing any common person to contribute to the information. There are basically two reasons they are depending upon crowd-sourcing. “First, no one organization can complete this task, it’ll be a multimillion Rupee worth of project, and second, the information will always be changing,” says Sakar.
They are also looking forward to work in collaboration with different organizations, such as Monsoon Collective, Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) Nepal, Wikimedia and Maps Kathmandu.
“For a project like GalliGalli, we need people from tech-savvy, people who use different alternate routes to those who work in government offices. We need to build communities of people who are interested in contributing as well as using the information,” says Surabhi.
Till now, they have started mapping Krishna Galli, a street near Patan Dhoka, and are planning for more elaborate mapping. Also, for the MaiDalal project, they have started a wiki platform which will soon be available for all, to gather, contribute and edit the information.
“Though editing a Wikimedia may sound very ‘techy,’ it isn’t,’ says Sakar. Surabhi adds to his point, saying that it is actually very easy and they plan to come up with a style guide for using the MaiDalal wiki in the near future.
They both add that they believe that usage of technology is a very powerful tool but they are also aware that web-only tools are not enough in Nepal. They are also looking forward to developing other low-tech and no-tech options such as a live operator and government help desks.
Apart from the utility concern, they are also hopeful that as the information gets public, people will demand more.
“It’s a known fact that the course of action differs according to the different classes or standards of people. But as the sharing of information takes place, people will question the procedure and know if they are misled,” Surabhi argues.
But they refrain from identifying themselves as activists. They don’t have plans to advocate against any irregularities or stage protests or demand certain actions from the government. They believe in working only as catalysts.
“We want to create a space where information is provided that are helpful to people to act on their own. We’reinterested in people to get to know about the procedures, its flexibility and irregularities,” says Sakar. While Surabhi quickly points out those processes will be more of an organic kind.