Software that is accessible by a large number of people often produces unexpected benefits due to its inherently collaborative nature. In New Delhi, overburdened traffic police have gained an incredibly cost-effective method of catching traffic violators. Thanks to New Delhi drivers who snap pictures of offenders and post them to the traffic police’s official Facebook page, numerous offenses, such as riding without a helmet on a motorcycle, fender benders, and other violations can now be fined from afar by using the license plate information captured in the photograph. Police do not take the photos as automatic proof — traffic violators are allowed to contest their tickets — but New Delhi residents report a greater feeling of driving safety, due to increased paranoia about being photographed in mid-transgression.
We have noted Facebook’s collaborative benefits for governments before, especially in regard to the U.K.’s use of Facebook as an informal polling device on proposed spending cuts. This latest inadvertent usage of the social networking site is another real-world testament to the benefit of creating platforms that enable instantaneous and collaborative communication. In this case, making photos instantly available to a number of different parties in one central location transforms a once incredibly expensive process into a simple matter of more effectively using resources that are already in abundance — cell phone cameras, an internet platform, driving infractions and the enthusiasm of the community.
In situations where budgetary concerns prohibit the expansion of a needed force, governments are increasingly discovering that the citizenry is often able and willing to supply labor or input where it is most needed, provided that this labor and input is handled in a way that maximizes its efficiency and impact. In a similar fashion, organizations and businesses can also save themselves tremendous amounts of overhead by simply making more efficient use of the resources already at hand.
Collaboration, in its most elemental form, is the desire of a group to achieve a goal. By creating spaces that can be easily adapted to convey information in a real-time format such as Facebook, like-minded individuals invariably begin working together to achieve their goals.
Christopher Smith, CEO of opin.ca, provider of enterprise content management systems
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