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Tech Innovation in the Time of Covid-19

Covid-19 Technology Innovation

Forty-three-year-old Mumtaz works as a domestic help in a group housing society in Faridabad. Since the time Covid-19 hit the economy, her fortunes have seen a complete turnaround. Her salaries have reduced because she can no longer visit the households to clean or cook, and some have discontinued her services altogether because management committees of apartment complexes have disallowed entry of outsiders. 

How could she feed her family of four now that her husband too had lost his job as a daily-wage mason?

Being a migrant to the city, it was not easy for her to claim the government-allotted free ration for people below the poverty line, and, now with her meager savings running low, she really could not afford to buy any food. Seeing her helplessness, the son of one of her employers introduced her to Helping Hand, an app that directs people in need to the nearest shelter home, hunger-relief camp, or rain basera, which are government- or NGO-managed institutions. Mumtaz does not own a smartphone, but her employer does and, with their help, she has been able to secure some food from the locally managed distribution center. 

This is a glowing example of how innovative technology can help those in need as homelessness, starvation and unemployment peak in a locked-down India. 

So What Is Helping Hand?

Launched on Google Play Store by FleetRobo, a brand under Binary Semantics, the app is based on geo-location tagging through which hunger relief centers, temporary relief centers, and rain baseras within a city’s limit are tagged using their latitude and longitude. When you open the app, it asks for location permission, and, based on the device’s current location, nearby help centers light up on the screen. The team has started their work in the Delhi-NCR region but plans to expand to other cities in India soon.

Ashima Chaudhary, Director of Binary Semantics, told Spark.Live in an interview: ‘The current era is of technology, where a smartphone has become a basic need along with food, clothes, and shelter. Our major goal was to reach the daily-wage worker who is not able to earn their livelihood during this period–as they need these relief centers the most. Also, we are running a campaign for smart and educated citizens to pass on information about the nearest help centers to the needy. The app is a social venture, and we are not looking for any commercial benefits from it.’ 

A section of the app also provides information on the count of Covid-19 positive people in a zone and provides a link to apply for e-passes into the different states of India. 

mHealth by Welltory

Innovation and data-driven technology are not only intervening in immediate stress relief but also helping to build informative databases that can contribute immensely to research on Covid-19 treatment, patient guidelines, and preventive measures. mHealth is such an app by New York-based Welltory, which works as a personal Artificial Intelligence (AI) health lab and lifestyle dashboard. Filipp Romashkin of Welltory tells us: ‘In terms of the study, the app helps collect heartbeat measurements for heart-rate variability analysis–a method  that is used to assess the state of the nervous and immune systems during illness and recovery [from Covid-19].’ 

By mid-May 2020, they had over 250 participants from across the world — patients either recovered or recovering from Covid-19 — and are currently recording 5000 heart rate variability measurements, which is helping with a research carried out by the Harvard Medical School. Their aim is to publish their own findings by June and help researchers from all over the world work with a large data set of people who are sick and would have recovered by the end of July. 

Experts believe that heart rate variability data of patients can provide a unique peek into what a Covid-19-affected body actually goes through. 

The Coronavirus outbreak has thrown open a uniquely difficult situation for a globalized world that is more connected than ever before. You can turn on the TV to find out what’s happening on the ground in Wuhan or Santiago sitting in Bombay or Bangalore. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that the solution for the mass distress can perhaps be discovered in the increased connectedness we have towards each other as people suffering together, and sharing our lives and common experiences through advanced tech. Whether it is sending instant relief to distressed populations, or simultaneously monitoring the heartbeats of thousands of Covid-19 patients all over the globe, innovative tech has come in handy like never before–rising up to an unprecedented challenge posed by an unusual mutating virus and bringing us together in a more profound way than words alone.

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