The New Cop in Town: Citizen COP Promoting Public Safety in India via ICT


In recent years India has been marred by multiple high profile rape cases that have generated international backlash. The brutal 2012 rape and murder of a 23 year old medical student on a bus in Delhi sparked protests across India, and became a rallying cry for reform. The five men and one juvenile (17 ½ at the time) who perpetrated the attack had their arrests and convictions fast tracked. Additionally, India passed legislation which broadened the definition of rape and implemented harsher punishments. Unfortunately, little changed. Government figures from 2013 indicate that the reported incidences of sexual assault in Delhi more than doubled from the year before. This figure is not unique to Delhi. Nationwide, one Indian woman is raped every 20 minutes.

In the state of Madhya Pradesh, Home Minister Babul Gaur recently said of rape “Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.” Yet in this environment a tech company called Infocrats Web Solutions is working to directly improve the safety of citizens of Madhya Pradesh via their Citizen COP smart phone app. The basic premise of Citizen COP is that it facilitates communication between citizens and police, allowing for quicker and more accurate reporting of crime, as well as eliminating barriers when requesting emergency assistance. The local government and police forces of Madhya Pradesh need all the help they can get in promoting public safety, as Madhya Pradesh has the second worst crime rate in India.

Citizen COP boasts a variety of features, all of which promote public safety in a unique way.

Incident ReportingCitizen COP’s incident reporting functionality allows users to anonymously report illegal activity directly to the police. The reporting feature allows the user to supply the police pictures, videos, location data, and a description of the scene with the press of a few buttons. Talking to the police or reporting a crime can still be taboo in India. The apps’ anonymity allows the user to report an incident without facing the same backlash that could occur from reporting a crime in a traditional manner, thereby removing a major barrier.

Help Me (SOS)

The SOS feature empowers a Citizen COP user to call for help almost instantly. The user can open this feature simply by shaking their phone, shaving valuable seconds off the time it takes to call for help. It sends an SMS to a series of contacts, as well as to the local police. The message is preprogrammed with geolocation data, as well as a call for help.


This feature is named after Lakshmana rekha, which refers to a strict line or principal. If that line is crossed, or principal broken, severe consequences can be expected. e-LaxmanRekha allows the user to map a boundary around themselves utilizing their smartphones’ mapping capabilities. To do so, the user selects several points on a map (like dropping a pin on Google Maps), which are connected with a line. This sets a geographical limit for the mobile device. If the device crosses this boundary, an SMS message will be auto-sent to contacts preloaded into the “Help Me” feature.

Additional features of Citizen COP include an in-depth directory of police contact information which is automatically sorted based on proximity to the police station, a live tracking GPS system which can enable family members to view the users’ location in real-time, and a notification system which provides news updates.

Empowering Citizens

While Citizen COP doesn’t work to address the underlying causes of violence against women in India, it can be a valuable tool in promoting public safety. Upendra Jain, of the Bhopal Police Department, published an official letter thanking Citizen COP. It read: “…Citizen COP has immensely empowered our citizens with enhanced awareness of security and safety measures. It has already started giving favorable results. I, on behalf of Bhopal Police, sincerely appreciate your concept, innovation, and successful implementation of ‘Citizen COP’ in our jurisdiction for the welfare of society as a whole.”

The app is currently available in the cities of Indore, Bhopal, and Jabalpur. Infocrats Web Solutions is planning to expand their Citizen COP service offering to the other major cities in Madhya Pradesh, and then regionally to other states. The app can be downloaded via the Apple App Store or via Google Play, where it has a 4.3/5 rating with over 1,000 reviews.

Using ICT to Track Government Services in India


Basic public services and programs often function inefficiently in India, especially in the poorer states and regions. One problem is the delivery of services to the people who are entitled to them, and the lack of accountability in making sure they are actually receiving the services. Traditionally, one of the main methods of tracking needs and problems is Jan Sunwai, a public hearing process that surveys citizens and gives them the opportunity to ask questions or register objections to a panel of elected representatives, NGO experts, government officials, etc… Panel topics are prepared based on issues gathered from door-to-door surveys, and citizens are invited to voice their grievances at the panel. In the best cases, these grievances are resolved.

This form of reporting can be intimidating for women and marginalized groups, which is where technology can provide a faceless-interface technology. “Samadhan – Citizen Action for governance” is one such initiative that is using ICT for more effective governance. In 2010, the joint initiative of UN Millenium Campaign, Collector Sehore and Samarthan, was launched in Sehore, in the Madhya Pradesh district of India.

Samarthan is a non-governmental organization that believes strongly in public participatory governance. They “promote and encourage involvement of local population in planning, execution and monitoring of development projects thereby challenging the mainstream “top-down” development model.” Through the Samadhan platform, citizens can register their complaints and get them resolved by holding the concerned officials accountable.

Samadhan is a web-based Open Source Software, with complaints tracked through online input, SMS, telephone and the more traditional Jan Sunwai. It’s primarily for citizens to directly demand and track their service entitlements provided by national and state government programs. The focus was to strengthen the government initiatives by getting feedback from the citizens on the delivery and quality of services from various departments.

Complaints can be made around a wide variety of issues, including education, food and civil supplies, rural employment, sanitation, public health, agriculture and family welfare. Registrants have the ability to track their complaints through the system and get feedback at closure of their grievances through SMS.

The initiative was developed with the collaboration of local civil society organizations (CSOs), which contributed greatly to its success by bridging the gaps between the government and the citizens. Youth volunteers in 200 Panchayats (local self-government institutions at the village or small town level) and the municipality of Sehore promoted the concept of the platform to provide formal feedback to the district administration. The feedback was then analyzed from the perspectives of the most poor and vulnerable sections of the society.

“The main challenge was to build technology for the poorest communities so that they can use it with ease to get access to their rights and entitlements,” notes Mr. Manohar Dubey, Additional Secretary, Public Service Management, GoMP. “The front end interacting with the citizens should use the simplest of all the technologies. The technology should be citizen-centric and not developer-centric.”

Over 5500 complaints were filed in Samadhan in the last one and a half years, and over 56 percent have been resolved. As more people bring voice to issues and problems, it ultimately puts pressure on the system to change and improve. Programs can be targeted more effectively and reach more areas of the country.

“Unlike other e-governance driven initiatives, this project was initiated and developed independently of any government interference and hence we [were] able to develop the system from both a citizen’s and activist’s point of view, rather than just an administrator’s point of view,” explains Mr. Pankaj Lal, Founder and CEO, Tangere Infotech.

There have been some challenges to the system. Some of the more rural districts cannot access the platform, so administrators have allowed the residents to register their complaints at the local level.   But these complaints are registered manually, so are not monitored as closely, leading to delays in resolution. The shift of registering complaints from SMS to the Jan Sunwai system resulted in some sectors feeling shut out of the participatory process. (SMS provides a faceless interface, which was more encouraging for women and marginalized groups to access.)

As this was a pilot initiative, withdrawal of the UNMC and Samarthan was agreed upon and the platform was turned over to the Sehore administration to manage. Before the handover, they organized a Experience Sharing Workshop on ICT for Effective Governance.   During the workshop, the organizers shared major learning from the pilot initiative with peer groups and concerned higher officials of Madhya Pradesh; discussed the up-scale of the initiative in all the districts in the state; and allowed for the sharing experiences of other CSOs in their ICT initiatives for social change in India.

ICT does not solely improve governance. True improvements need to happen within the system itself, but ICT can certainly influence accountability, transparency and better deliverance of good governance.