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Indigenous solution

As the world opens up post-pandemic, India offers its tested CoWIN technology to address the need for credible tracking of vaccinated people

Indigenous solution
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The latest initiative by India in the field of international diplomacy took a digital route this week, with the Government offering its open-source Co-WIN platform for the world to use just as most countries are beginning to vaccinate people to fight Covid-19.

"Technology is integral to our fight against Covid-19. Luckily, software is one area in which there are no resource constraints. That's why we made our Covid tracking and tracing App open source as soon as it was technically feasible. With nearly 200 million users, this 'Aarogya Setu' app is a readily available package for developers. Having been used in India, you can be sure that it has been tested in the real world for speed and scale", Prime Minister Narendra Modi's words at the CoWIN Global Conference on July 5 signals India's effort in the fight.

Following the massive aftereffect of the second wave, New Delhi put on hold its 'Vaccine Maitri' programme as the country unveiled a new ambitious inoculation programme that aims to vaccinate all adult population by the end of this year. Under Vaccine Maitiri, WHO-Covax programme and contractual obligations, India supplied millions of vaccines to various countries, most of which are eagerly waiting for the supplies to flow again.

At one time, India took the lead in offering life-saving medicines, medical supplies, personal protection kits and, most importantly, vaccines to countries during the first wave. Yet, hemmed in by domestic demand and conditions, the inability of India to continue with vaccines provided China with the opportunity to energise its efforts in augmenting doses for inoculation.

New Delhi's initiative is an effort to recreate space and regenerate goodwill at a time many countries, especially the lesser-developed economies and neighbouring countries are exploring supplies to vaccinate its people.

By offering the open-source application for all the countries in the world, India takes a march in offering a technology-driven solution for countries to keep a record of the vaccination drive and eliminate physical documentation. This would demonstrate once again that India, also known for its prowess to develop software and a leading supplier in the world, occupies a high perch in this field.

As the world begins to open up for vaccinated people to travel for work or leisure, countries are discussing methods to verify those who got the required number of jabs. The European Union's Covid Green Pass created controversy over the non-recognition of the Covishield vaccine, which most Indians are taking. Some countries have come out with amendments while discussions are on to deal with the situation on a diplomatic plane.

It is in the post-vaccination sphere that New Delhi's offer of a technology, tested on a daily basis at home, provides an incentive to countries getting ready on the mission to inoculate their people.

The Global Conclave attended by representatives from 142 countries, European Union Commission and the UN, including ministers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Guyana and Maldives, was to make this open the offer of the software with the ability to customise as per the country's requirements.

Reflecting the 'whole of the government approach', several Ministries came together to organise the Conclave. These included the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, the National Health Authority of India, and the Ministry of External Affairs

Appraising the virtual conclave of the features, PM Modi underscored that if the globalised world has to return to normality in the post-pandemic period digital approach is needed. To prove they are vaccinated, people would have to carry proof that is safe, secure and trustworthy with relevant details of when, where and who gave the required dosages.

Stressing on the benefits, former Health Minister Harsh Vardhan underlined the application as a robust, inclusive and scalable system that can "prevent rent-seeking, black marketing and other malpractices". Benefits of these features can be compared amid reports that in some countries including in India's neighbourhood, vaccination doses are cornered by the rich and shortages leading to a premium on the doses that should reach everyone who is required to take it. The scientific community keeps reminding "no one is safe till everyone is safe" from the scourge of the virus which keeps mutating and descending in waves.

The Health Minister characterised CoWIN as the crown jewel of the Digital India initiative and that the platform shall go down in history for facilitating inoculation of a large percentage of the world's population with ease, while simultaneously ensuring complete transparency. "The accolades the platform has been winning globally and the interest expressed by so many partner nations in seeking our technology, expertise and know-how in this domain just reaffirms my belief".

Explaining the rationale behind the approach Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said it is based on the belief "Asotama Sadgamaya" that knowledge provides solutions; that knowledge overcomes obstacles.

India, he said, even in the darkest days of the pandemic, did not lose sight of the fact that it lives in a global community and as responsible global citizens help one another in difficult times. The country continues to share its resources, experience and expertise with others to the best of its abilities.

Views expressed are personal

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