A tech solution to vaccine booking blues

Screenshot of under45.in.  

As the pandemic continues its macabre dance of death, there is a maddening rush for vaccination, and booking a slot on the government’s Co-WIN portal presents a veritable challenge.

While registration on the portal goes for a song, it is booking the vaccination slot that proves tricky, and its success often seems to depend on timing and luck.

Berty Thomas, a Chennai-based business analyst, originally from Ottappalam in Palakkad district, has come up with a unique tool linked to Telegram, a popular instant messaging app, to overcome the challenge. His innovation seems to be proving immensely successful going by the sheer number of people who have subscribed to the city and district-specific telegram channels. At last count, the 145 telegram channels have a combined user base of nearly 5.50 lakh.

“I had tried to book a slot shortly after vaccination was opened up for those aged between 18 and 45 years but could not find any slots. The next day, I came across a tweet on the centres available in Chennai but still could not find them on the portal. Frequent manual checking of the portal was impractical, and that triggered the thought about a tech-driven solution,” said Mr. Thomas, 35, a programmer by hobby.

He used the Application Programming Interface (API), the software intermediary facilitating communication between multiple applications, to write a script that threw up available slots on the portal he had created, under45.in. He successfully managed to book a slot on Co-WIN at a centre thrown up by the script.

He then tweeted about it, which soon brought an avalanche of inquires from across the country. Soon, traffic on the portal skyrocketed, and the server crashed forcing its replacement. Yet, traffic continued unabated slowing down the portal.

“That is when I thought about linking the solution to district-specific Telegram channels whereby available slots are automatically alerted on those channels. This meant that users need not come to the portal but can simply log in to the Co-WIN portal and book the slot as soon as alerts come,” said Mr. Thomas.

But the demand for the vaccine is such that successful booking of slots still depends on the speed at which users manage to log in to Co-WIN, or else they risk missing out on the slots.

Mr. Thomas is now flooded with messages of gratitude and tales of successful experience of beneficiaries.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 10:49:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/a-tech-solution-to-vaccine-booking-blues/article34546129.ece

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