During the 2015 Kumbh Mela, Professor Ramesh Raskar realized that a physical address for every business and home is critical for digital solutions. Without street names and signs, it's difficult to navigate a place, and that makes a lot of everyday activities more challenging. With street names and signs, people can get emergency services, and they can order products online and have them delivered to their door. Plus, they make it easier for the municipality to organize drainage and street cleaning.
Life is now becoming much easier for the village of Wadhiware, near Nashik, in Maharashtra, India. In July 2016, the Emerging Worlds team from the MIT Media Lab worked with the people of Wadhiware to map their village, name their streets, and develop street signs.
We worked closely with Ms. Priti Shejwal, the sarpanch or “mayor” throughout the entire process. Ms. Shejwal demonstrated leadership by opening Wadiwahre to innovative new ideas and technology. Ms. Shejwal is a visionary who understood how her village could be transformed through comprehensive street naming.
Prior to this project, the village had little to no existing addressing system. When it came time to document street names village-wide, there was a conscious effort to preserve the history of the village by making many “unofficial” names official. Most of the new names were consistent with the use of the particular roads; others were based on recommendations of the villagers. For example, Market Road is where you’ll find the center of the village’s trade and economy. This collaboration worked because of the trust and respect between the Media Lab team and the Wadhiware villagers. We listened to each other.
Wadhiware is the first village in India history to take part in this street naming initiative. With the leadership of Ms. Shejwal, the village came together to make it all work. The complete project -- mapping the village, naming the streets, and printing the physical signs -- was completed in only a week!
This on-the-ground effort involved a lot of manual operations. In the future, we plan to automate much of the process. We can dramatically improve the scale of adoption with digital technologies and techniques such as satellite imaging and machine learning. Wadhiware is one village on the road to empowering citizens in many villages across India and worldwide.
We would like to thank divisional collector Eknath Dawale, sarpanch Priti Shejwal and upsarpanch Raosaheb Katore of Wadhiware, as well as Subhash Patil of the Kumbhathon Foundation for helping to ensure the success of this initiative. They all helped to make addresses a reality for the 10,000 people who live in Wadhiware.