How the tyranny of digital access is playing out for vaccine seekers

Vaccine, digital divide,
Amid criticism over the CoWIN portal and its functioning, the government has claimed success over its vaccination drive | Image - Eunice Dhivya

Soon after India opened up registration for COVID vaccination for people aged above 18 years on April 28, Berty Thomas, a 33-year-old Chennai-based investment banker, tried to register on the government’s website for vaccine registration, CoWIN, but he could hardly find any slot.

After searching endlessly on the portal, Thomas realised that this was a problem that millions of people across the country were facing, and so, he came up with a solution.

Thomas, who had developed software development as a hobby, leveraged the recently opened up CoWIN Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) to simplify the booking process. He wrote a script in three hours to filter those centres that had slots available for his age group. The next day, he was able to book slots for his wife and himself.

Thomas then posted about it online. Soon, he received a lot of requests from friends and strangers in different cities. Thomas realised the need and soon developed websites above45.in and under45.in and directed users to his Telegram account, where his application automatically fetched real-time data of slot availability on the CoWIN portal and sent alerts to people in the group.

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