Sanitation in India is a major problem and the Government has taken a lot of steps to build toilets for everyone. Even then, 70% of the Indian households lack access to toilets, which causes further problems and an increase in diseases.
To combat this hurdle, Google has decided to pilot a ‘Toilet Locator’ in collaboration with the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). This service is expected to be available anytime between 16th and 30th November, starting with Delhi-NCR.
Google will integrate this feature in its Maps services, so that whenever someone wants to search for clean toilets around, they can simply Google Search for words like ‘toilet’, ‘sulabh’, ‘swach’, ‘lavatory’ and ‘shauchalay’ to get recommendations from around. Of course for this, you will have to turn on location/GPS tracking on your smartphones.
This new feature is being undertaken as a part of Government of India’s Swachhata Pakhwada, or Cleanliness Fortnight campaign. Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s Chief Minister, had promised to build toilets in multiple areas around Delhi and successful in building a part of the plan.
The team in Delhi working on it has reportedly completed the mapping of toilets and plans to roll out the feature soon. The best part is that since people will be using these services, they will also get an opportunity to review the toilets and rate them on their cleanliness and accessibility on Google Maps itself.
Will this feature be able to solve the purpose?
The new service will be providing information to users about toilets nearby in malls, petrol pumps, hospitals, shops, public places and even standalone wash rooms at the side of the roads.
The main question still remains – when so many people don’t have access to a smartphone, and further even basic internet connection, how will this feature spread to smaller cities and towns where open defecation is a major obstacle.
Even if the Government plans to scale this feature in the metros, a large population remains oblivious to the fact that there is a feature like this on their phone they could use. The ones that are educated and literate do not need this app that urgently as do others, while the ones that are not literate need it as soon as possible but won’t be able to use it.
It is a futile exercise if those who need it are not able to access it. However, Reliance Jio’s launch has given a hope to everyone that people who could not afford a phone earlier can finally do so and add to the development of this nation.
The Government has not released the plans to scale this service to other cities, but the metros will be the ones getting it first. Delhi-NCR should be covered in a couple of days and the feature should be available soon. Look out for this update in Google Maps and use it next time you’re searching for a rest room.