IIT Bombay develops IT solutions to help with physical distancing 

#GS3 #Science&Technology 

Systems connecting people to medical help, avoiding queues, are in use 

  • Software can greatly help with the demands of physical distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and IIT Bombay members have developed some interesting solutions.  
  • One involves a platform named World Wide Help (WWH) which can be used to connect people seeking medical help with helpers, such as doctors.  
  • The other is a system to generate e-tokens that can be deployed by local markets and small vendors to ensure physical distancing. 

Patients and helpers 

  • The WWH platform can be used with an app or a phone. The user simply calls a dedicated number and can input basic data such as the age of the person in need of help and whom they wish to solicit help from.  
  • This is registered as a task in the app and assigned to a primary helper who is a junior doctor or medicare professional.  
  • Further, the task may be re-designated by the primary helper to a senior doctor, who is the second level of helper. Or the primary helper may settle the issue through a phone call. 
  • The platform has seen a few deployments in the last two years (for providing agricultural advice, nutrition advice, career counselling advice and so on).  
  • It is mature, but each deployment requires its own customisation… the bottom of the pyramid do not have the resources or may not have the digital literacy for this. Hence a low-cost, phone-based solution with humans in the loop to make information access more easy for this population is in order. 
  • The technology aspect was not as challenging as the need-assessment and promotion of the platform. Ma and Shishu Poshan, a helpline that provides nutrition and breast-feeding support for mothers and infants has been using this platform already. Now the group is in talks with King Edward Memorial hospital, Mumbai, to put it to use. 

Vegetable market 

  • Every Tuesday and Friday, between 2.00 pm and 8.00 pm, the consumer society vegetable market opens at IIT Bombay. As is expected, people may need to crowd the market to pick up their fruits and vegetables. 
  • To avoid this crowding, along with the email that informs the residents of the opening of the market, a link is sent. 
  • Clicking on this link generates an e-token for the user. This email is sent to approximately 1,000 households in the campus.  
  • The e-token is a number that informs the users of their places in the queue. By checking a link provided in the email, the user can check the status of their token – if it is close to their turn, they can move to the market and pick up what they want. 
  • Hence, we made it so that the e-tokens are always even in number. Those who are challenged by the system can call and pick up a physical token which is an odd number. They can at least do this till they learn how the system works. 
  • This system is also being used in IIT Bhilai where some students who were unable to go back during the lockdown have to be organised to collect food from canteens. 
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