‘India COVID Support’: IIT Kanpur's Verified Covid-19 Resource Database To Help With Credible Information

by Karan Kamble - Apr 30, 2021 07:18 PM +05:30 IST
‘India COVID Support’: IIT Kanpur's Verified Covid-19 Resource Database To Help With Credible InformationIndia COVID Support is launched by the Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre at IIT Kanpur.
  • IIT Kanpur's incubation centre has launched a website to provide authentic and verified leads on various supplies and related assistance required by families suffering from Covid-19.

India is in the throes of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the daily case count causing alarm.

Naturally, with the Indian healthcare system under tremendous stress, families who are battling coronavirus infections have a struggle on their hands to get medical supplies and make related arrangements.

Information about the availability of necessities is, however, often unreliable, and people in need of immediate support end up lost and frustrated in the maze of inauthentic data.

Motivated to solve this pressing problem, the Startup Incubation and Innovation Centre (SIIC) of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, has launched a website called “India COVID Support”.

The portal aims to provide verified leads related to various supplies required by families suffering from Covid-19.

“The intention behind this initiative is to minimise the suffering of the family members of Covid-19-positive patients,” says Aditi Kumar, assistant vice president of BioPrograms at SIIC.

The idea for the initiative came from the personal experiences of IIT Kanpur incubator team members.

The seed was planted after Nikhil Agarwal, chief executive of the institute’s Foundation for Innovation and Research in Science and Technology, struggled to find leads for medical necessities after he tested positive for Covid-19.

Kumar too had a similar experience while trying to help out a family member. “Five days ago, when I was looking for ICU beds for my cousin sister in Delhi, I asked for leads. I ended up getting only WhatsApp forwards. I dialled various numbers for seven to eight hours with zero luck. I don't want anyone else to have that same experience,” says Kumar, who leads the life sciences and biotechnology vertical at SIIC.

“I was distressed to see people were not getting proper information. Precious time was wasted by the patients and their caregivers to find authentic sources. A few weeks back, I myself had to visit five different hospitals to get my RT-PCR done and eventually I had to wait five days to get the result. Therefore, I thought, can we do something about it?” says Agarwal.

“The idea of India COVID Support came to my mind – where we are trying to build a credible one-stop source of information,” he says.

Nikhil Agarwal on a video call with team members for India COVID Support
Nikhil Agarwal on a video call with team members for India COVID Support

The idea was floated on 24 April. And within 48 hours, the interns at SIIC, Snehil Saluja and Ananyae Kumar Bhartari, developed the website. It was then launched officially on 27 April by IIT Kanpur director, Professor Abhay Karandikar.

It took just three days to materialise the idea with the help of tireless work.

Meanwhile, other team members at SIIC split up in different groups in order to carry out tasks like collating and verifying data.

“Ten to 12 of us started collating data from various platforms – ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), WHO (World Health Organization), city websites, etc,” says Kumar.

A separate team was formed to verify the leads – to ensure that calls are actually going through and the information is genuine. This is the step that’s missing when information is shared on social media and private messaging platforms – and a source of frustration at a time of urgency.

The internal team of SIIC has found help in volunteers spread across different states (many of them not associated with IIT Kanpur) who have signed up for India COVID Support work.

“We have assembled a team of around 100-120 volunteers in the last 48 hours from different colleges who are working from home and have decided to dedicate two to three hours a day for the work,” Kumar says.

The volunteers have been given three tasks – verify the verified leads, verify the unverified leads, and collect data from the town or city where they live.

This third task helps expand the pool of available information constantly.

Volunteering for the initiative is open for all. “Anyone who can set aside 30-35 minutes can upload relevant information on the website,” Kumar says.

And all the work is being accomplished remotely.

‘India COVID Support’: IIT Kanpur's Verified Covid-19 Resource Database To Help With Credible Information

For now, the website has over 5,000 verified and unverified entries based on various sources covering 78 cities. Nearly every metro city in the north is covered, and the plan is to expand to all parts of the country.

“The intention,” says Kumar, “is that over the next one week, we want the website to be populated with information across the nation.”

The website is already receiving a good response. About 5,000 unique users have installed the web app so far. Kumar tells me that the website is registering more than 100 users per minute.

IIT Kanpur’s India COVID Support is offering help beyond medical supplies alone. The team, for instance, has gotten in touch with doctors who are ready to provide teleconsultations. Their details have been made available on the website after taking their consent.

An FAQ (frequently asked questions) section provides authentic information taken from credible sources, such as ICMR, WHO, and studies published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Plus, they have added a list of cremation sites to the database as it has become a necessity in the pandemic, especially during this upsurge.

“Yesterday (28 April), a group of volunteers started a taxi service for people who are positive and want to commute in the city,” Kumar tells me.

With this initiative, people can come together to support each other. After the launch of the website, the Dean of Resources & Alumni, IIT Kanpur, aptly tweeted: “Together we fight, together we win!”

The daily Covid-19 case count in India has gone from 1 lakh on 6 April to nearly 4 lakh towards the end of the month, with the country recording 386,693 cases on Thursday (28 April). Roughly 21 out of 100 people being tested for coronavirus are reportedly showing a positive result.

Amidst this rise of cases, people have been scrambling for credible information as they try to get tested or require medical supplies and other assistance for themselves or their family members. However, it's been tough to separate the useful, authentic information from the unhelpful during crunch time.

Currently, to deal with the second wave of virus spread, combative measures are being introduced in various states.

Partial lockdowns or related restrictions have been announced in states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Goa.

Registration for the third phase of Covid-19 vaccination too was opened at 4 pm on Thursday, 28 April, coinciding with the rise in cases.

Everyone over the age of 18 years can sign up to take the shots from 1 May. Already more than 2.45 crore beneficiaries have registered themselves on the digital platform Co-WIN.

In terms of overall vaccination, 152,245,179 vaccine doses have been administered till 7 am today (30 April), as per the Health Ministry.

Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.

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