It’s National Technology Day – a day that celebrates the achievements of engineers and scientists in the field of science and technology. It was on this day in 1998 that India had its breakthrough moment after it successfully test-fired the Shakti-I nuclear missile at Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan.
Thirty years later, we are witnessing technological advancements of a different kind, in the form of tools that are helping save lives during a deadly global pandemic.
Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp have played a pivotal role over the last couple of weeks in connecting people with essential resources required to put up a strong fight against COVID-19. A lack of proper planning and preparation by state and central authorities to shore up healthcare infrastructure, that could have helped combat the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic more efficiently, has resulted in an acute scarcity of life-saving resources, and many citizens have taken to these platforms to source what they need.
From oxygen cylinders, medicines and injections, to ICU hospital beds, people have been reaching out to strangers on the internet for donation requests, as well as up-to-date, verified information about availability.
Of course, tech mavericks in the country have stepped forward to help optimise these social media searches, launching all sorts of important search platforms and features that can help cut down time wasted on pursuing outdated leads by giving users the option to filter by city, resource required, criticality of the patient, last verified at information, etc.
Here are some tools we’ve seen making the rounds:
This website allows users to search for resources by city, specific requirements (such as beds, ventilator, medicines, food etc) and provides a host of keyword-enabled search options.
For example, if you’re searching for tweets that say “verified”, you can click on that option and turn the filter on. Furthermore, if you want to, for example, search for beds only in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai, by adding that keyword under the ‘other’ option, those specific tweets can be filtered.
This Twitter search tool is free to use.
A crowdsourced website, CoronaHarega’s landing page displays the most recently used leads which the platform creators manually enter, although they do caution verifying them personally first.
Users who’ve successfully been able to source what they need from a business can fill out a form on the website to create an entry that can help others. Businesses offering COVID-19 essentials such as oxygen cylinders, food, medicines etc can also fill in their details to get listed.
The website displays the ‘last updated’ status to direct people looking for resources to the most current information. It also contains a ‘remarks’ section where users can mention their experience with the service they used, as well as use it to caution any dubiousness when it comes to suppliers.
The website is free to use.
Covidcitizens is a citizen-driven community initiative to facilitate convenient access to current and comprehensive information and support. Its 300+ volunteers verify and crowd-source pan-India information on critical Covid resources such as medicines, oxygen cylinders, beds, blood tests, meal services, plasma, ambulances, and more.
Users can either search for resources by location directly on the website, or find information through its WhatsApp bot.
The WhatsApp Introbot, in particular, is a very nifty tool that provides useful leads, one at a time — to get a new lead, the user is asked to give his/her feedback on the previous lead by picking from options such as “helpful”, “unresponsive”, “out of stock” and “invalid”, which helps continuously update the information repository.
To get started, users have to message “COVID” on +1-234-517-8991, which is the number for the WhatsApp bot.
The platform claims to have responded to over 3.5 lakh Covid-related medical requests, and helped save over 20,000 lives through a real-time, trusted database of over 18,000 medical suppliers.
Developed by four Delhi-based samaritans, this crowdsourced website helps users find resources by state and city. Its most useful feature is the ‘status’ column where users can update if the listing they’ve contacted via the platform still has resources — handy for whoever sees the page next. Suppliers can list themselves, and update the availability too.
To weed out incorrect entries and listings with wrong numbers, the creators of the platform, led by IIT-Kanpur graduate and ex-IAS officer Sanjeev Gupta, created an OTP verification system, and revamped the interface.
Its ‘plasma’ resource feature does not have too many entries though, and those listed need to be verified independently. But since the platform was launched merely days ago, development and accumulation of data is still ongoing.
Mission MillionAir is a WhatsApp bot, launched by conversational AI startup Verloop.io. It helps people source oxygen concentrators by connecting patients or caretakers with suppliers.
People looking to use the service need to send a “hello” on a WhatsApp number: +91-8047-10-7750.
The bot can also help people look for medicines and match patients with plasma donors. Founder and CEO of Verloop.io, the bot’s developers, told a news publication recently that a dedicated team mans the WhatsApp chat at all times to ensure no request goes unanswered.