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Millennium Post

Boon of the modern world

The Covid-19 is not the first viral pandemic and it won't be the last. As global community battles the respiratory disease that has brought nations to its knees, there is, however, a silver lining amidst the global gloom. What puts us in a far better position than all the previous century pandemics is today's relative excellence in technology. It is through cutting-edge technology that humanity will race to develop a vaccine for the Covid-19. But, it is also the very technology that can potentially help us restrain the spread. Taking a cue from China and South Korea who utilised modern-day tech to mitigate the spread of the infectious disease — exhaustively making headways to flatten the transmission curve — India too must deploy a similar exercise. This is not to be propounded and deliberated upon but rather practised immediately. While the country has been gripped by the Covid-19 forcing a national lockdown for 21 days, several technological solutions have either come up or are being developed so that the spread can be contained. While those infected will have to rely on medical expertise, the vast majority which has been advised to stay home will benefit the most from these technological solutions. The vast user-base of smartphones with one of the cheapest data rates in the world can be a pivotal weapon in our fight against the contagion. The application (app) world that smartphone users are well aware of can become a boon during the current gloom. Location-tracking — one of the common services on smartphones — can be used to track Covid-19 infections and ensure quarantine. While administrative measures are being constantly updated, the real situation always depends on grassroot implementation. With the migrant labourers' crisis that broke out following the abrupt announcement of national lockdown, one could not miss a large section of internal migrant workers stranded due to closure of transport services. The Delhi government quickly updated Google Maps with locations of over 500 Covid-19 hunger relief centres and government-run shelters, allowing people to reach the nearest centres for free meals and shelter. However, that is just one of the countless ways to use tech. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology launched the 'Corona Kavach' which can tally smartphone locations with the government database of infected persons and notify people about infection hotspots, effectively directing them to stay indoors. Another app, 'COWIN-20', under development by the NITI Aayog would be useful in determining proximity between users through location and Bluetooth features of smartphones. 'Unmaze' by Innefu Labs would allow authorities to keep a tap on those quarantined and inform them if there is a breach. Since people have been breaching quarantine directives, this would come handy. These apps would be of great aid in combatting the pandemic as India attempts to restrict the total tally which breached past 1,000 on Sunday.

Apps aside, the geotagging feature has also been put to use in the development of interactive and informative maps that can provide a variety of information from infection hotspots to dedicated Covid-19 hospitals. In fact, through geotagging, centres with more traffic of patients to be screened or isolated would serve in the timely deployment of additional resources for effective management of such centres. India's IT sector is qualified to explore more such technical solutions based on GPS, Bluetooth or even RFID that would allow for better identification of infection across the country. The major drawback here, however, is the inaccessibility of poor people to such tech. Hence, in their case, it is the government's responsibility to ensure that the safety net cast by these apps cover them, informing them to maintain distance. These apps clearly would serve the purpose of advanced communication, reaching out to masses as administrative measures steer the country through these tough times. It is undisputed that telecom companies would have to ensure the quality of data services for the successful utilisation of these apps and geotagging features. Through technology, our odds of expeditiously overcoming the pandemic rise exponentially!

(Image from orfonline.org)

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