Neha Prakash IAS

The situation worldwide has grown grim due to the widespread of COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed over a lakh lives across the globe. In an effort to contain the pandemic and save lives, Governments, private firms, NGOs and other groups are joining hands together to come up with effective solutions. Technology has posed as a ray of hope for prevention, treatment of the virus as well as spreading awareness among people to avoid infection. Highlighting how COVID-19 crisis can be managed through technology, Neha Prakash, Special Secretary, IT and Electronics, Government of Uttar Pradesh addressed a webinar hosted by Dr Ravi Gupta, Founder and CEO, Elets Technomedia.

Prakash, while addressing the key topic of the webinar said, “Today we have real-time sharing of data of almost everything happening in the world. The COVID-19 crisis has come at a time when the world is interconnected and technology can be of great help in this time.”

Talking about the approach of people, in general, towards technology, she said, it is hard for people to shift to a whole new system when they have a traditional option available but they need to understand the significance of technology. “I think, authorities should make the existing system obsolete so that people automatically shifts to the new technology and they do not have any other option…There is a need to bring in behavioural change which includes people’s inclination towards technology and for this, we need to create urgency so that people take it seriously.”, she added.

Technology-driven initiatives implemented in UP to fight COVID-19 pandemic

When asked about the technology-driven initiatives that are being implemented in the State to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Prakash answered, “There are a lot of technology-driven initiatives that have been taken in the State for the cause.” The authorities are continuously monitoring the medical staff and patients in medical colleges and hospitals through ICCC and collecting essential data. Also, a mobile application ‘Rajya Apda COVID19’ is developed and is being used to track locations for shelter homes, community kitchens, hotspots of COVID-19 and more, she said.

Also Read: IT Initiatives Transforming Governance in UP: Neha Prakash

Appreciating the move by the Government of India and elaborating on technological aids, she said, “Arogya Setu app is the official app launched by the Government of India. This is helpful in contact tracing of COVID-19. People can set your location so that the app can monitor the location using GPS and Bluetooth. It also prompts alerts in case a COVID-19 positive person is in close proximity.” Indian Government is very proactive as we have already developed the Arogya Setu app and now tech giants like Google, Apple are talking about developing apps on similar lines.

Prakash further mentioned that people need not worry about their data as the data privacy has also been taken care through the app it does not store the personal particulars of any person rather it generates a unique ID number. The data is also not shared until there is an urgent required to inform the user about potential infection threat.

Uttar Pradesh already has a robust IT infra which is of great help in fighting the COVID-19 crisis. “We have CCTV cameras, control room monitoring activities across the state and keeping a check on community kitchens, mandis, with the help of ICCC”, she added.

The State has also set up a call centre answering to emergencies and complaints on the helpline 112. The call centre came in handy while handling the massive number of migrant workers. Around 40, 000 to 50,000 migrants were called and were asked about their travel history, medical history and symptoms if any. Those who reported any symptoms, immediate medical help was provided to the person.

“However, to abide with the social distancing practice, the call centres are being operated with reduced capacity”, said Neha Praksh.

The authorities are drawing a visual map on the basis of the number of complaints received. The move is helpful in zeroing down to potential COVID-19 hotspots and take necessary actions beforehand, she added.

To meet the growing food requirements, an online portal ‘Supply Mitra’ has been developed to ensure that people get food. The portal gives information about the ration shops nearby and stores selling essential commodities like groceries, vegetable vendors, fruit vendors and more. Also, the app has been of great help in enabling the door-step delivery of vegetables and groceries. “We also have ‘Annapurna portal’ displaying location and information of community kitchens distributing cooked food”, she added.

Adding on to tech interventions she said, in the secretariat, we have a scope for work from home. The State has apt infra available and files online to implement ‘work from home’ model in government offices. Such a model reduces cost and load on public infra and helps in preventing COVID-19 infection as well.

Neha Prakash concluded the webinar by saying, “We have supply chains intact, the institutions are fine unlike the 2008 recession, so I think we can bounce back to our normal scenario soon after the pandemic in controlled completely.” The novelty of this crisis makes us realize that our efforts are in an experimental phase and nothing is specific or fix or permanent. So, it is teaching us a lot every day. And, is a good opportunity for us to enhance our preparedness for disasters, she added.


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