The Covid-19 pandemic has unimaginably affected social, economic, institutional and governance settings worldwide. It has generated an unparalleled health crisis globally, affecting thousands of people and threatening health systems and services. It has forced over 3 billion people to be locked at home. Covid-19 could put great stress on societies and political systems, thereby creating the potential for violent outbreaks. Early signs of social disorder are already visible. (International Crisis Group – ICG, Report, March 25, 2020).
While the adverse and wholesome impact of Covid-19 is yet to be measured, in this entire catastrophic scenario, the poor, vulnerable, low social and income groups, and informal sector are and going to be the worst affected in multitude ways, now and in months to come. Covid-19 is posing a huge health crisis and endemic situation in India. It is affecting the country’s social, economic, services delivery, demand-supply and governance chains and network and crisis management. Livelihood, work, income and security have been disrupted especially for the poor, vulnerable and people living in rural and remote communities due to lack of information, resources and support system. An initial surey was conducted by DEF in 7 states namely Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Karnataka. It was seen that there are 7% cases of COVID-19 has been detected in Smartpur locations. Approximately 58% respondents said that only one hospital is there in their area which depicts that how overburdened the health sector is those locations. In these tough times a lot of basic essential items are getting scarce out of which Food Grains ranks at the top with almost 36% have stated that it is not available at all. Followed by sanitizer at 20%, which if not available will create health issues and may increase COVID-19 cases as sanitization is the need of the hour.
Another challenge that has emerged from this situation is of reverse migration of workers from cities. While the whole physical network, interactions, engagements have come to a standstill, it is the digital resources, platforms, solutions and networks that has and can act as a major support mechanism in this crisis. For the vast majority, there are four set of issues that requires immediate attention-
- Lack of physical and mental health awareness about Covid-19
- Spread of misinformation, fake news and panic created
- Lack of information, data, linkages, guidance and facilitation related to public entitlements and resources
- Livelihood and income strains and access to opportunities.
DEF, keeping this in view, has launched an ICT-enabled and community specific relief programme through virtual community and service facilitation. The 600+ digitally enabled information resource centers and 10,000+ foot soldiers across 25 states and union territories will aid in:
- Public schemes, welfare measure Information, entitlement facilitation and delivery
- Support Tele-health & Tele-medicine
- Internet support;
- Alternate livelihood opportunities in times of distress
- Consultation and counselling
The survey highlighted that the main source of information for 53% respondents on Covid-19 is through mobiles with Whatsapp ranking the highest. DEF, leveraging this, has designed an ICT-enabled and community specific emergency relief programme through virtual community. The 600+ digitally enabled information resource centers and 10,000+ foot soldiers across 25 states and union territories will aid in public schemes, information dissemination, entitlement facilitation and delivery. Internet support will be extended to facilitate tele-health services along with consultation and counselling.
The aim is to reach over 60,000 households and 3,00,000 individuals with above needs and facilitation. Simultaneously, DEF will create a cadre of 600 Covid-19 Digital Volunteer Force (C-DVFs) for facilitation and deliverance of the services. The idea is to create a model which can be replicated and is scalable for Covid-19 and any other pandemic situations.