The mapping technology can be used to track cases in the nearby area or check the availability of beds and ventilators at healthcare centres.
India’s healthcare system has been under pressure during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
With more than 1.5 million cases reported in the country, patients have evidently struggled with a shortage of beds, ventilators and other medical supplies. Whereas the public hospital data is available in the government’s 2019 National Health Profile, but tracking down private hospital availability is much difficult.
These challenges can be handled efficiently with the use of mapping technology.
Previously, many government departments, for example education, forestry, and disaster management have used geographic information systems, or GIS, to map out demographics and asses information to take care of critical situations and crises. In the private-sector area, retail stores and banks use maps commonly to decide the locations of their new branches.
Presently, California-based Esri has been working with Indian officials to handle the novel coronavirus outbreak. Esri has started online centres for healthcare departments for merging maps with data from different healthcare facilities, captive centres, and containment zones. It publishes them on a user friendly dashboard for the authorities.
“One of the major challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it is swelling in pockets and identifying and understanding locations and demographics is critical,” said Arvind Sharma, partner at law firm Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co. “GIS [technology] uses sophisticated analytical tools and provides reliable data regarding the spread and impact of the disease, and the outcome of efforts to tackle the same.”
In March, the Gujarat government started a GIS-based mobile application to observe the movement of those who were told to be quarantined at their residences. Local authorities in Mumbai have been publishing GIS data online, so residents can trace cases in their areas and take precautions.
GIS can also be used to better take care of the huge novel coronavirus facility data and get real-time statistics on the availability of beds and ventilators.
But the technology has its disadvantages if it’s not handled and managed properly. For instance, some worries are around privacy and security . “Authorising unregulated surveillance might lead to data discrimination in which marginalised community [sic]could be further excluded due to non-transparent algorithmic processes,” Kazim Rizvi, founding director of tech and public policy think-tank The Dialogue, told IndiaSpend.
“Earlier, GIS has been used by [the] health department for mostly malaria and things like this but not at this scale. This scale is unbelievable,” said Agendra Kumar, president of Esri, an international supplier of GIS software.