By Suzette Norris

Random acts of cleanliness. It’s not a phrase that rolls off the tongue, which is probably why folks in India say “spotfix” instead. Either way, it’s a citizen-led initiative to pick up trash instead of complaining about it.

Spotfixing is gaining traction in several cities in India. And the government this month launched a $10 billion campaign dubbed “Clean India” to educate citizens about the link between sanitation and public health.

All of this got researchers at the Xerox Research Centre India thinking.

Exploring new methods of “smart city” management, researchers created a mobile app. (The working name is CityZen, but that will likely change.) This app helps citizens eradicate urban blight by reporting incidents and helping them proactively take organize a spotfix to clean it up.Xerox Researchers Develop App to Spotfix Urban Blight

In a recent  experiment/social service effort, the lab’s Corporate Social Responsibility Group used the app to identify and report a dirty area near a string of tea shops that needed some attention. Using the app, the group organized a spotfix. About a dozen folks from our lab showed up and worked for more than two hours, clearing out 20 bags of garbage, painting and even planning a few shrubs.

The pictures taken before and after the spotfix are worth a thousand words, said Sainyam Galhotra, a budding scientist and Arunasish Sen, a research engineer who helped organize the effort. “Cities in India and many emerging economies typically face dynamic and unforeseen problems ranging from garbage on sidewalks to transit overload and other traffic related issues,” Sainyam said. “The entire exercise demonstrates Xerox’s drive toward helping city management not only through active participation, but also through unique technology solutions.”

CityZen was shortlisted among more than 100 contenders for widespread adoption in Indian cities during a community hackathon. The event challenged teams to create a mobile or Web application that enables people from across the country to plan, organize and execute a spotfix. Xerox team members include: Deepthi Chander, Tridib Mukherjee, Mridula Singh, Amandeep Chugh, Anirban Mondal, Koustuv Dasgupta.

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