Dr. Praveen Gedam is an IAS Officer and Commissioner of the Nashik Municipal Corporation. Over the past two years the MIT and Kumbhathon teams have worked closely with Dr.Gedam to deploy technology to impact the Kumbh Mela, a massive religious festival drawing 30 million people.  We are grateful for his help, insight, and support.  Under the guidance of Dr.Gedam, Kumbh Mela was incident free with no lives lost, no epidemics, and no missing children, a truly impressive feat.  In addition to his interest in government administration, Dr. Gedam is also a qualified medical doctor, further adding to his impressive portfolio, and creating even more synergy with the MIT team.  Learn more about his work and Nashik, India HERE

By: Dr. Praveen Gedam 

Kumbh Mela was not only a spiritual gathering for Nashik but it also turned out to be a gathering for science, technology and innovation. Thanks to Kumbhathon, an initiative from the MIT Media Lab in collaboration with local government and various private companies, Kumbhathon was more than a hackathon. It provided a platform for all innovators to come together and create solutions to better mankind.  As a result of our work with the MIT Media Lab we have a new innovation culture in Nashik which deployed many technologies during the Kumbh Mela and continues to impact our city creating solutions for our city and our citizens.

As a government official I am often approached by people in the private sector who want to showcase their innovations. Often the so-called idea is already built and they have determined which government problem it will solve and where it can be sold and marketed.  Kumbhathon was different. Government agencies were involved in sourcing the problems and creating the innovations from the beginning.  Many of these solutions from Kumabhathon were directly related to the organization of Kumbh Mela*.

Kumbh Mela is all about crowd, crowd and more crowd. If solutions work during Kumbh Mela, we realize that they can work at any place and any time. The crowd size in Nashik was an advantage for the innovators who had to create robust solutions to be able to tolerate the data of the masses. Apart from this, the city is ideally located near India’s commercial capital and it is one of the best tier II cities to invest in and to do R&D. Nashik Municipal Corporation is one of the few corporations in the country that has adopted latest technologies at times moving more quickly than other nearby cities. This ensured success of the Kumbhathon movement. Analysis of the crowd was made very simple by use of ping technology of cell towers and projecting the 2D maps to show crowd movements. This was also supplemented by experimental use of Ashioto mats.  Simple and cheap housing structures were built in the sadhgram to be used for Kumbhmela and they will continue to be used in the future for similar events. Meditracker tracked the symptoms and diseases in and around Nashik in real time and real location making us alert about impending problems at early stages.

However, above all, Kumbhathon has provided a platform for our government to interact with innovators on continual basis. This has become a movement. A new innovation center is about to open in Nashik, with support from corporate partners, the MIT Media Lab team and the local government. There are many problems that need groundbreaking solutions including traffic, water supply, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and many more. I am sure this perpetual scientific movement where the scientific community, businessmen and government have come together will go a long way in creating a better world.

*Kumbh Mela is a massive hindu gathering that occurs every several years in different cities in India.  The Nashik Kumbh Mela was in August and September 2015 and drew crowds of 30 million pilgrims.