WEF lauds BBMP Covid-19 war room's tech use

World Economic Forum acknowledges BBMP Covid-19 war room's tech use

The report acknowledges the BBMP’s Covid war room’s dashboard helped to co-ordinate volunteers, and helped residents in containment zones to file complaints

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s Covid-19 war room has earned plaudits from the World Economic Forum (WEF) for its leverage of technology to fight Covid-19. 

The acknowledgment was made in a broad report released by the WEF titled 'Technology and Data Governance in Cities: Indian Cities at the Forefront of the Fight Against Covid-19', covering six municipalities: Bengaluru Urban, Surat, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Tel Aviv, Lisbon and New York City. 

The report acknowledges the BBMP’s Covid war room’s dashboard, which was created with help from scientists of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), plus telecare facilities, containment zone monitors and mobile helps which managed patient data, helped to co-ordinate volunteers, and helped residents in containment zones to file complaints. 

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The report touches on how the city was unprepared for the sudden growth of Covid-19 cases and had to rapidly scale up to match the challenge. B H Anil Kumar, the former BBMP commissioner who helped set up the war room, told DH that when the outbreak started to gain momentum at the tail end of March, that the Palike did not not have suitable infrastructure to track the pandemic. 

Only last-minute supplies of hardware from a firm, Pro Digital, allowed the war room to get set up within 24 hours on March 23, two days before the lockdown. 

"The war room was a tool which allowed us, for example, to get 1,000 people into a conference call at once, which meant we could simultaneously engage with NGOs and RWAs. This was vital to quarantine enforcement," Kumar said. 

He added that the war room also began collecting massive amounts of data which was then analysed. "An analysis meant we could execute strategies in the containment zones we were putting up,” he said. 

At its peak, the war room had a full-time staff numbering between 25 and 50, said Kumar, but these small numbers were said to be bolstered by a hidden army of IT professionals and experts working from home. 

Hephsiba Korlapati, Special Commissioner, BBMP, described the war room as a "seamless coordination between government, academic and the private sector". 

She added that Infosys, PWC, Quantella, ESRI India, CWC India and Microsoft gave critical support. "If we wanted an expert to work with us for a week — the heads of the IT companies would deploy that expert with us. We also had KAS probationers, IISc data experts and Public Health experts from St. John’s," she said. 

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Tel Aviv stands out

Most of the six cities in the WEF report were shown to have adopted similar measures. However, Tel Aviv stands out for giving its citizens access to real-time Covid-19 data, including an updating map of hotspots. 

"I think our daily bulletins had a lot of information which was of importance to policymakers. But Tel Aviv, which has a smaller population, is different. We had to decide how much data we wanted to make public," Korlapati said.