The past few months have brought unprecedented changes in our lives. One of the most important information which all of us have been looking for is surely related to COVID-19.
Amid a lot of fake information circulating through WhatsApp about the pandemic, it was important to have reliable sources of information. To tackle this, a volunteer-run website that provides all the crucial information related to COVID-19 came into existence in March.
Chowdari Babu, the co-founder of the website, covid19.org.in. says that people were anxious with the information getting circulated about COVID-19.
Along with his colleagues from Conceptive Consulting, an information-technology consulting firm out of Hyderabad, he decided to register the website covid19.org.in. The main aim behind starting this website was to provide reliable and authentic information related to the pandemic that people could access at any time.
Although for the website to work successfully, it required multiple teams working several hours a day. With the lockdown going on, it was difficult to get in touch with individuals who could help out.
Babu initially started to seek collaboration from people within his professional social network. After others got to know about it, people from all walks to life, including doctors, engineers, and others came to his aid.
Slowly, they were able to build a network of volunteers all over the country who would look for information on state government websites, newspapers, and local news related to COVID-19.
Each of these teams created what is known as a "slack channel" or information route, that would start at the source of information and through various steps would finally find its way on the website.
The statistical information used on the website was collated from the National Disaster Agency, John Hopkins University, as well as from the local NGOs.
He shares that contact tracing was a major concern and they provide an information dashboard for this. Similarly, there was a research information section on the website, that contained updates related to vaccine status section, a section on how to make masks as well as updates from www.rightdoctors.com.
He feels that for the website to be completely updated, it would have costed them up to 10 lakhs. But the entire process was completed smoothly because enough people were motivated to join the cause for the greater benefit of all.
The founders wanted the website to be as user-friendly as possible, and they took constant feedback for this. For instance, a lot of people requested information about whom to contact in case they were suspected COVID-19. They took up this feedback and provided helpline numbers on their website that could be used.
Similarly, many of them demanded information regarding where to get tested. The website quickly provided a quick-access button that would geo-locate the closest testing centre in your area.
Under such grim times, many of them even asked for sharing positive news. "We created a section for stories that would serve as positive assurances which people could look to for inspiration during these tough times," adds Babu talking about his website.
They featured positive stories as well on their website. One of such stories about a lady from Mumbai who provided mental health support during the pandemic was published by them. Later, they went ahead and also collaborated with her.
Because of this collaboration, they were also able to add a mental health section on their website, which had FAQs, a questionnaire as well as helpline numbers.
Thanks to the efforts of Chowdari Babu and his team, the website quickly earned a reputation as a reliable and up-to-date source of information.
Currently, a team of three people from Conceptive Consulting as well as a team of 10 external collaborators and various other teams are working on this website.
Through their website, they attempted to help many affected groups as and when possible. One of such instances includes that of the community of farmers who recently contacted them. They had 1000 tonnes of mangoes and no channel through which it could be distributed.
By using google maps, they were able to figure out a way to get these mangoes distributed and home delivered to places outside containment zones.
"We often have ideas for how to solve a problem, but it is empathy that makes that idea into a real-world solution," concludes Chowdhari.
Chowdari Babu is supported by Bhushan, Ivatury, Ravishankar Varma, Partha Bhatia, Abhay Agarwal and manufacturers of COVID-19 essentials.
This story has been received from Giving Circle. It is a platform that connects social change makers, donors, and volunteers. They are working to scale up these initiatives.
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