Every year, more than 120 million laborers across India migrate from rural villages to large cities in search of work. This pursuit often requires traveling hundreds of miles in the hope of finding a job that allows them to send money back home to their loved ones. When the COVID-19 lockdown began, migrant workers who wanted to return home often struggled for food, shelter and transport.
Humanitarian aid came almost immediately and from every corner of the country. Offers of support from government agencies, non-profits, enterprises and individuals poured in to meet the workers’ most-pressing needs. Matching help providers with help seekers on a real-time basis was key. Initial efforts focused on addressing this challenge through a call center, but it was not scalable.
LibTech India, an organization that provides technology to deliver public services and an offshoot of Stanford University’s Program on Liberation Technology, had assembled an extensive database of information about the public and private entities offering help across India. Libtech also had data feeds providing information on help seekers. To put this data to use, a solution to visually connect the seekers and providers, including real-time location information, was needed to help aid seekers who were continuously on the move.
The startup company approached the Azim Premji Foundation and Wipro about developing a platform that could solve these issues. Wipro leveraged its experience developing technology for the health and life-sciences sector that connected patients and providers, proposing a platform that would enable migrant workers to locate the resources closest to them. The platform also provided aid seekers the providers’ information for relief planning.
Wipro dedicated a team of developers, architects, UX designers, business analysts and product managers to quickly design and develop a comprehensive solution. Deployed after just nine days, the new platform was launched by COAST India and integrated country-wide data about assistance providers with Google Maps to indicate specific locations where help was available. The solution also included a signup form for aid agencies to be onboarded onto platform.
COAST India could pinpoint assistance, as the platform now worked as a “clearing house” of real-time information about relief providers and seekers, but ensuring delivery presented a challenge. In many cases, workers’ locations had changed since initiating their request for help. Privacy regulations precluded the use of GPS tracking, so Wipro utilized WhatsApp to deliver messages that workers could click to consent to GPS tracking and sharing of their location with providers even if they moved.
LibTech India’s original system provided assistance to more than 5,000 workers between 28th March – 5th April. Working with Wipro’s new digital platform, the upgraded system has helped provide a unified view of more than 170 relief providers and facilitated more than 100,000 requests for help. Its scalable design will enable even more additions and requests as the migrant-worker population continues to learn of this valuable tool.
Future enhancements to the platform may include real-time information about help providers’ inventory (e.g. food, cash, shelter) and help-seekers’ demand, which could alleviate supply-and-demand mismatches; social-media integration; a mode to send cash directly to migrant workers; integrated migrant-worker data from government agencies; and push notifications for local law agencies to allow help seekers’ movement.