Sometimes, the only directions you need are to the nearest bathroom. And now, Google is providing you with just that. That is, if you’re in India. To address what CNBC describes as a “nationwide problem of open defecation and urination,” Google and the Indian government have embarked upon a new partnership to create a toilet locator app that takes users to the nearest public washroom.
Making its official debut late last week in the states of Delhi and Madhya Pradesh, the app is currently about as bare bones as it gets, offering only directions to the closest toilet. But moving forward, it hopes to do even more, including informing users as to the cleanliness of the facilities, the style of toilet, and whether or not you’ll have to pay when you get there.
“When you search for “public toilet” on Google Maps in an area where the service is available, you’ll see a list of restrooms near you, including the respective address and opening hours,” Sanket Gupta, product manager of Google Maps India, said at a launch event in Delhi. “For instance, if you’re traveling on the National Highway 8 in Gurugram, locating a public toilet can be challenging and most often the only option is going to nearby restaurants and cafes. Having this information handy can make things much easier.”
Such an app could be a game changer when it comes to public health in India, as official surveys in the country suggest that nearly 70 percent of Indian households currently lack access to toilets. But as some critics have pointed out, by the nature of it being an app, such a tool may be hard to use. After all, users will have to not only have a smartphone, but have good network coverage and understand how to use maps. And many who don’t have access to a toilet will also lack access to a smartphone.
All the same, it’s a move toward using technology to solve a public health issue, which is clearly a move in the right direction.