Global technology giant Google has extended their support to the Indian government as they roll out an added feature that will help people locate public toilets on Google Maps.
Abiding by the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission objectives and taking it to a new level; this initiative comes as a welcome step enabling easy access to public toilets in urban areas. Google Toilet Locators was launched by Venkaiah Naidu, the Minister of Urban Development while launching Smart Toilets and Reverse Vending Machine in New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NMDC) area. India is putting up a tough fight to tackle the nationwide problem of open defecation and urination. The Minister at the launch revealed that over 500 cities and towns in the country have achieved the status of being free of open defecation and a total of 739 cities and towns have expressed serious commitment to achieving this status by March 2017.
Tracking a washroom would be easier for people using the Google Maps app as the feature is slated to have listings covering the Delhi NCR region including Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Noida and Faridabad. Naidu also said that while Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Sikkim have already declared all cities and towns Open Defecation Free (ODF), Kerala is soon to become ODF by March 2018.
The innovative feature of the app will let people search terms such as ‘toilet’, ‘lavatory’ or Hindi words such as ‘swachh’ and ‘shulabh’ to track the cleanest as well as the closest restrooms in the area. Moreover, the app will have features to sort list your search on the basis of the ‘style of toilets’, ‘cleanliness rating’ and the ‘fee to use or payable’.
While safe and healthy sanitation is still a major concern in India, this initiative from the government might look compassionate. However, in a country where official surveys have revealed 70 pc of the rural households with no access to proper sanitation, how likely they to be equipped with a smartphone with Internet still are remains a question. The service is subject to good network connectivity and a proper Internet friendly populace. While this might be a huge aid to the travellers using the highways, it does not seem very convincing for the rural population.
The government plans to tackle these challenges with awareness campaigns involving interactive sessions with the local mass of various towns and cities. Official statistics shows that over five million people defecate in the open in Delhi itself. So, albeit the primary challenges that loom large on digital acceptance – the initiative if implemented organically should help one of the major concerns of developing India.