Long known as the software capital of the world, it is time for India to take the lead in becoming a world leader in digital health infrastructure and truly to realise PM Narendra Modi’s dream of a Digital India
“One Earth, One Health”—PM Modi emphasised. In order to advance towards overcoming the pandemic, the Prime Minister focused on the integration of global services during the recently held CoWIN portal global conclave. An open-source version of the app platform will be created to give it free of cost to any other country that requires it. In 6 months, CoWIN has grown to handle more than 420 million vaccinations. The platform has become the backbone of the world’s largest inoculation drive.
Most developed countries already have a digital robust health infrastructure, but many developing nations are likely to benefit from centrally implementing and managing them. Over the course of the pandemic, India upheld its integrity, principles of brotherhood and great diplomatic tact, strengthening its ties globally. Not only did India provide resources, medicines, and distributed vaccines to over 90 countries, but now India will help manage immunisation processes. The advancement of the CoWIN portal proves to be another opportunity to promote and influence Indian IT industry across the world, which might further help us in emerging as a leader on the same front, a soft power committed to sharing its expertise, experience and resources with the global community, working together for humanity.
India has proved to be one of the major destinations for affordable healthcare catering, and advancement in technology has changed the way healthcare services are provided here. On domestic fronts, telemedicine and remote monitoring tools have helped connect the experts to the small areas and solved accessibility and labour shortage issues. From the Arogya Setu App helping trace and track Covid suspects, Covid India Portal aiding real time monitoring of Covid cases, e-Hospital for Hospital Management System, e-Sanjivani App for telemedicine service, to e-RaktKosh Portal monitoring Blood Stocks, several IT initiatives have set benchmarks for digital healthcare infrastructure.
Despite various impediments, India is undeterred on the road to vaccinating its huge population. The level of arrangement, strategising, and monitoring is such that we are vaccinating approximately the population equivalent to New Zealand in a single day on an average. When others were sceptical about it, when the opposition was trying every chance to create vaccine hesitancy and questioning the vaccine supplies, here the Government of India was administering doses with the highest record of close to 85 lakhs in a single day. It is hard not to comment upon the vaccine wastage observed in opposition ruled states, in Rajasthan on July 1, 2021, over 1.69 lakh unutilised balance doses of vaccines were recorded, in Jharkhand 37 per cent, in Chhattisgarh 30 per cent according to reports published in May. On one hand, they are complaining of shorter supplies and on the other, they are wasting the invaluable doses. Collectively providing a common interface for all stakeholders- administrators, vaccination centres, and beneficiaries-CoWIN is not just a registration portal. It mainly provides real-time data about availability of vaccines with respect to date, location, the type of vaccine, opting for free or paid vaccines, allowing users to have financial controls and decision-making according to their comfort. It also acts as a tool providing real-time vaccination status of individuals and the population as a whole. One can also check vaccination trends in graphical format, nation/date wise vaccination numbers- a breakup with respect to age, gender, types of vaccines, etc.
Besides, a high-security code is sent as an SMS to the beneficiaries, verified at the vaccination centre; only then can you receive the confirmation message of your vaccination being completed. This fabricates seamless transactions to verify and protect the users from fake messages or technical glitches or receiving wrong confirmation messages. Not to forget that the portal provides a secure and trustworthy source record for providing proof that they have been vaccinated. Users can download his/her vaccination certificate containing a QR code which can be scanned anytime to prove the authenticity of the certificate and verify details. The platform allows the users to link their passports with vaccine certificates or merge certificates as well. These measures help curtail any chance of doubts or corruption, ensuring fair and equitable distribution of the vaccines.
Furthermore, CoWIN has enabled post-vaccination Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI), which helps citizens manage adverse effects and collects data for policy making and scientific research, till now 0.008% AEFIs were tracked. The portal has been merged with various other Apps like Arogya Setu, UMANG and even private apps like Paytm in order to make the booking process even easier. MyGov Corona Helpdesk, a joint initiative of MeitY and MoHFW, is available directly on WhatsApp. A user can simply send their pin code and information for the nearby vaccine centres and available slots.
Some media reports alleged that lack of technical resources, computers, smartphones or internet access, language barrier and technical expertise to register digitally have hindered certain sections of the population from getting vaccinated, which is not true at all. Having a mobile phone is not a requirement for Covid vaccination. Even proof of address is not mandatory to register online with CoWIN. Many walk-ins were arranged where vaccination centres were directly doing on-site registrations. Also, vaccine slots can be booked directly by calling on the helpline number ‘1075’. For easy understanding, CoWIN is available in 12 regional languages. The Indian government has made special arrangements to organise vaccinations for anyone who is not having even a single identity card out of nine listed viz. nomads, roadside beggars, prison or rehab inmates, or who do not have mobile phones. With these relaxations, more than 2 lakh beneficiaries have already been vaccinated to date. Additionally, the portal has been designed to keep it accessible and screen-reader friendly for our visually disabled citizens.
Therefore, the CoWIN platform is an integrated IT system that provides a flexible structure with all the necessary end-to-end functions to aid universal vaccination; barrier-free access to the most vulnerable groups in the remotest areas, leaving none deprived. In fact, COVID19 vaccination coverage in tribal areas is better than the national average, and the gender ratio is admirable too. The data also depicts that more than 70 per cent of vaccination centres are located in rural areas.
We are proud to observe that policies are duly changing in accordance with the needs, and constant supervision is in place. Under the revised national COVID Vaccination Policy implemented on June 21, 2021, in order to encourage production by vaccine manufacturers, manufacturers are allowed to offer vaccines directly to private hospitals, with a cap of 25 per cent of their monthly production. And very recently, the Union Cabinet has approved a new scheme, ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response & Health System Preparedness Package: Phase-II’, amounting to Rs 23,123 crores for FY 2021-22 with Central Share of the ECRP-II—Rs 15,000 crore and State Share of the ECRP-II—Rs 8,123 crore.
Long known as the software capital of the world, it is time for India to take the lead in becoming a world leader in digital health infrastructure and truly to realise PM Narendra Modi Ji’s dream of a Digital India.
(The writer is Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha from Nizamabad, Telangana)