Covid19 Tech Impact
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As per the 2011 Census, the density of population in Delhi is 11,297 persons per sq km. The national average stands at 382 persons per sq km. This by default makes the capital and its satellite cities a danger zone in any pandemic. While the nationwide lockdown was enforced from March 25, in Delhi, the focus was on the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic socio-religious group which held an inauguration function in the Nizamuddin area on March 3, which was attended by thousands of Indians and foreigners. With the Jamaat being identified as a Covid-19 cluster, the Delhi government and authorities set off on a nationwide hunt for cases from the event. To worsen things, immediately after the lockdown was enforced, Delhi witnessed what experts call the largest exodus since the Indo-Pak partition as migrant workers looked to head back home to neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and beyond.
Naturally, there was a lot of pressure on the Delhi state government as well as the Delhi police and central government given the criticality of cases and how severely it would impact the capital. From facilitating essential services like healthcare, tending to stuck migrants, disinfecting the city, checking misinformation, conducting tests, quarantining suspects and helping people cushion the economic impact, the state government managed to do a lot and a bulk of this effort was thanks to its use of tech.
Apps and Websites Managing Panic
Recently, the Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi launched delhifightscorona.in, a website dedicated to Covid-19 related information. The website has details on containment zones and hotspots, testing facilities, key locations, e-pass procurement and relevant FAQs. It also includes locations of all grocery shops in Delhi, temporary relief centres and hunger relief centres. While on the one hand, it addresses misinformation, the portal also acts as a unified source of credible services. The website has currently marked out around 100 containment zones around Delhi NCR.
Besides this, the Delhi government also collaborated with CallDoc, a Bengaluru based healthtech startup to consult doctors remotely for non-emergency medical needs. Patients can send their queries on a Google form online.
The Delhi government also launched a dedicated WhatsApp helpline number in April as the number of cases grew to provide access to credible information around Covid-19. Users can connect with the number 8800007722 to receive necessary information about the coronavirus pandemic. The service uses a WhatsApp Business API and is an automated chatbot service that will give necessary answers to questions about coronavirus.
Users can ask questions on topics around coronavirus and the answers are sourced from the health and family welfare department of Delhi government. Users can also obtain service helpline numbers, apply for e-passes and acquire general information on WhatsApp.
Automating Sanitation Efforts
Like other state governments, Delhi too has turned to drones for services. While the municipality is using drones to spray disinfectants and conduct sanitisation drives in localities, the Delhi police are using them to keep vigil in containment zones and densely-populated areas. Delhi police partnered with IdeaForge Technology, a Mumbai-based drone maker and drone tech provider for defence, homeland security and industrial applications. The system includes a drone along with a pilot provided by IdeaForge.
“We have already partnered with over 10 different states including Delhi. The initiative is primarily divided into two parts. First is surveillance and law enforcement which is followed by crowd monitoring,” said Amit Thokal, manager marketing at IdeaForge.
The company’s Q series and Netra V series drones have an on-board HD camera for day/night surveillance of public areas, monitoring rooftops, narrow lanes and areas that are not covered by CCTV cameras. “The second aspect is crowd monitoring which has been implemented in Maharashtra. In this case, the drone has two payloads. One is the HD camera and the second is a megaphone. The megaphone is connected to a walkie-talkie operated by officials on-ground. It is specifically aimed at densely populated areas,” Thokal added.
A single IdeaForge drone can be in the air for 20-40 minutes on a single charge. The external infrastructure needed along includes charging ports and extra batteries. The cost of operating a drone varies depending on the type of drone, on-ground requirements, manpower required and more.
Similarly, to maintain hygienic conditions at Delhi’s Azadpur Mandi, the largest wholesale market in Asia, the government installed sanitisation tunnels at its gates. Persons entering the mandi have to go through the tunnel where disinfectant is sprayed automatically on them. The machine is developed by IIT, Delhi. In a statement, the state’s development minister Gopal Rai said that depending on the success of the system the government will install more such machines in the municipal markets in the city.
Apart from the disinfecting gates and spraying drones, the government has also repurposed Japanese agricultural sprinklers donated by a firm to spray disinfectants in neighbourhoods. The vehicles with their adjustable arms made a good match for the narrow lanes of Delhi neighbourhoods.
Taking Care Of Education In The Lockdown
The Delhi government also started conducting online classes for Class 12 students in public schools via Zoom app in the first week of April. The classes are being conducted in partnership with private coaching centre Career Launcher. Adoption of digital services comes with the challenge of unavailability of infrastructure like home internet and capable devices and of course low awareness for tech solutions.
Apart from this, the government also initiated a series of happiness classes called ‘Parenting in the Time of Corona’. These are live discussions on Facebook conducted by hosts around topics like mindfulness, general wellbeing and social issues.
“The purpose of the happiness curriculum is to make children introspect and get to know themselves better. These are unusual times and we do not know what to do as a fun activity. We cannot go out, can’t go for movies, or sit in the parks, we are confined to our homes, with our family. In such situations, it is possible to get irritated with one another, and we don’t know how to refresh our minds as we are still restricted to our homes. It is important to turn the atmosphere positive in our homes and make the families spend quality time together,” said Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in a media statement.
According to announcements made on the Aam Aadmi Party’s official Facebook page, 1.3 lakh students registered for the online classes for the students of class XII.
Among the most notable of these steps have been the government’s partnership with Google Maps and MapMyIndia. Following the exodus, the government partnered with the location-based platforms for easy location of food and night shelters in Delhi.
Ola and Uber have also come forward to provide medical emergency services for those who are working as part of the essential services as well as other non-Covid-19 patients in the national capital. The service can be availed by dialling the government’s CATS ambulance helpline at 102 or 112.
With the number of Covid-19 cases continuing to rise, the government has announced a second extension of the lockdown period stretching it for another two weeks from the current end date of May 2 till May 17. This would further stress the available resources and manpower making room for adoption of new technology in managing the crisis.