Like most of us, Chennai-based Shyam Sundar was also tracking the Covid-19 crisis over the last couple of months. An active Twitter user, the curator and licensee of TEDx NapierBridge was regularly sharing government and media updates on his feed. But when cases started surging in India during mid-March, he decided to take things up a notch. “Many said they found the timely dissemination useful,” says Sundar, adding that it was a friend’s suggestion to get all this information on a single platform. And thus, the COVID19 Help – Chennai app was launched on March 30.
Breaking it down
Ever since, he has been dedicating six hours a day to verify sources and put out necessary information. Since the situation calls for daily updates, it requires a dedicated effort.“I check e-papers from several media organisations every morning. Once verified, I add it to the app,” adds Sundar, who works at an automobile firm.
With over 1,600 active users till date, the easy-to-use app has four tabs. Breaking it down for me, Sundar explains the Information tab is where all critical and essential information is available: hospital lists, grocery deliveries, where to get an e-pass for emergency travel, myth busters, symptom checkers, etc. Another tab contains numbers that connect to the Tamil Nadu government and Chennai Corporation helplines. The Organisations tab has the list of NGOs and individuals offering relief/aid in the city, and the Help tab offers information on how we can assist the State government via volunteering assistance and donations.
Rising concerns about fake news doing the rounds via WhatsApp forwards and other sources make it all the more important to ensure only verified news reaches the masses. So how does Sundar guarantee credibility? For starters, all the information is sourced from the TN Government, Chennai Corporation, and journalists, states Sundar. “The app does not include any data that cannot be verified. That is the base rule. I personally check sources, relevant websites and contact numbers before adding them to the app.” The source is indicated for each section, enabling users to cross-check as well.
With regular apps requiring access to personal information and your device, Sundar has taken care to address these privacy concerns and says the app does not collect any user data. “I rely on direct feedback,” he explains, “The app’s database is on Google sheets and it is open source. The information is accessed by users through the web app directly and therefore no data is collected, ensuring privacy and faster loading times on slow mobile networks.”
With his Twitter inbox now flooded with positive feedback, does he plan on making this a pan-India app? “There have been a few inquiries from other districts in the State, and I am open to sharing the template of the web app so that it can be adapted to other cities,” concludes Sundar.
Access the COVID19 Help – Chennai app on bit.ly/chennai-help