covid-19 vaccines Technology

Can’t find a vaccine slot? Coders come to the COVID-19 jab rescue

This time last year, India was queuing outside supermarkets and banks. Now the queues have also moved to the digital space, as the vaccination drive for all adults has opened up across the country. It has not been easy; the wait has been riddled with anxiety owing to vaccine shortages.

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But the past year has been a lesson in the power of online community, with people taking to social media for help, SOS calls and enquiries about registrations on CoWIN and Aarogya Setu apps.

Though help has been crowdfunded over the pandemic, the special skill-sets of technologists have been deployed cleverly – and at a welcomingly fast pace, too.

“India’s innovators have played a crucial role in our fight against COVID-19. I invite innovators and startups for grand challenge to strengthen CoWIN platform for roll out of COVID-19 vaccination program across India,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ministry of Telecommunications and IT, said in December 2020 when the CoWIN open API was announced.

Quickly, websites such as GetJab.in, FindSlot.in and Under45.in have helped people get appointments at verified vaccine centres. These platforms were possible in the first place because CoWIN’s API (application programming interface) has now been opened to the public. This means developers are free to access the framework of the app and integrate it into their own platform, like how Google Maps is used in food delivery apps.

Additionally, the developers of each of these platforms have also ensured they use terms that most people would be searching frantically online already.

Other helpful avenues
  • On WhatsApp, an Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot Introbot AI, created by Utkarsh Roy and Divyaansh Anuj, has been providing verified updates on availability of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders.
  • On Instagram, Vizag Volunteers and Chennai Volunteers have been working seamlessly on Instagram to give real-time and fast-paced updates to those looking for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders.
  • On Twitter, since the first announcements of plasma viability in treating COVID-19, verified handle Blood Donors India is actively encouraging people to share their urgent needs for plasma donations.

Perks of the platforms

GetJab.in was co-created by four Mumbai-based software developers: Azhar Hussain, Shyam Sunder, Anurag Kishore and Akshay Nautiyal, to smoothen the process. The four friends put their heads together to create the platform in a short while. They are continually updating these platforms with features such as SMS alerts and, to avoid bots spamming the app, the team has enabled a Google captcha as a security measure.

The founders of FindSlot.in are Bengaluru-based Shubhendu Sharma, who also launched founder of internet access startup Wi-Fi Dabba and Jeroz Nishanth, co-founder of data management company TEZR. According to Shubhendu, FindSlot.in “by May 2, saw more than 10,000 successful COVID-19 vaccine slot searches completed from 259 cities in India in the last 48 hours,” and the numbers keep rising.

While SMSes have been the alert system for a while now, Telegram has been a strong communications aide for platform Under45.in. Founder Berty Thomas announced the integration on May 1 for Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru. This proves particularly helpful since Telegram already has a massive user base across India.

It is not just the independent developers, large companies have leveraged CoWIN’s open API. One of them is HealthifyMe, an AI-powered health and fitness app, launching VaccinateMe.in as part of its free CoviFit scheme. The user experience comprises location-based, age, vaccine type, and ‘free or paid’ filters with more incoming features within the next few days.

Krish Kothipalli, 32, in Hyderabad used FindSlot.in for himself and his wife as he finds the interface faster than CoWIN. Krish points out, “It is just more responsive and it works in real-time. I was also not surrendering personal data such as my Aadhar number. When I got to my vaccine centre, I just had to file some paperwork and I got the jab.”


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 3:12:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/coronavirus-covid19-vaccine-slots-appointments-apps-india-under45-findslot-getjab-cowin-open-api/article34497739.ece

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