The State Election Commission (SEC) on Thursday announced the launch of its official app - Citizens on Patrol (COP) - to report electoral issues within Maharashtra.

COP was created by a Ludhiana-based IT company Webrosoft, which had during the 2014 Lok Sabha election created a similar but more primitive version called Election Watch Reporter (EWR) that enabled citizens to do (functionally) the same thing. Three years on, EWR’s download count rests at a mere 10,000 - quite a small number for an app that was supposed to scale the entire nation.

Now, with COP being provided at the state level, the question remains whether the R2 lakh spent on developing it (plus an operational cost of R20,000 per month), is it really worth it, considering that its predecessor failed to reach a greater magnitude, that too on a national scale? Even other apps developed by Webrosoft, such as My Neta, seem to be finding it difficult to cross the 10,000 mark in spite of having been available on Playstore for nearly three years.

Batting for the COP
SEC deputy commissioner Avinash Sanas, however, remains optimistic about the COP app reaching a larger number of people than its cryptic predecessor. “What EWR has achieved in the last three years, we can surpass it in the next few weeks,” he said.

Calling the app a ‘revolutionary change in the election process’, Sanas pointed out that the drawbacks of EWR had been developed, fixed, and simplified in COP app.

“The entire process of lodging a complaint, which would then reach the Election Commission of India, was a cumbersome process, sometimes taking up to weeks. We have fixed this; people now don’t need to feel shy or apprehensive about lodging complaints related to election irregularities, as their names won’t be disclosed. The complaint will be instantly forwarded from the server to an officer located within a 2-km radius from the site of complaint, who will then take appropriate action,” he added.

When asked about the abysmal numbers the EWR app had received and whether COP app would fare better, Sanas said: “This you can comment on only after the elections are over. It is now up to the people to decide whether they want to lodge complaints. We are trying to publicise the app as much as possible from hereon, and will keep tying loose ends to make the app more successful.”

'Not worth it'
According to Sharad Kumar, state coordinator for The Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), a body that analyses election expenditures as well as affidavits of party candidates, which along with NGO Agni developed the EWR app during the 2014 LS election, the R2 lakh investment and monthly operational cost of Rs 20,000 for developing COP was not worth it. “When we developed EWR earlier, there was no incurred cost; it was meant solely for ADR,” he said. “Personally, I do not think it is worth it - the utility of the app is only during election time; after that you won’t be able to use it for a cause. So what is the point of investing Rs 2 lakh? When someone charges money, they are supposed to be accountable for the total reach the app can provide.”

Webrosoft speaks
“We were approached by the SEC two months back,” said Jaskirat Singh, CEO of Webrosoft. “Its officials had seen the EWR app and were keen to replicate it. I think they wanted to test drive it first, and then launch it.

The app is expected to run for a five-year duration, but the SEC can stop using it anytime within this time period if it wants.”

In the last 48 hours, the COP app has been downloaded 1,000 times.

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