How Digital Interactions Can Make Communities More Active During COVID Crisis With smart phones and affordable Internet penetration into urban, semi-urban and even parts of rural India, it should be used as a weapon to bridge the communication gap

By Nikhil Bapna

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India's response to COVID-19 has been proactive, and pre-emptive with high level of commitment from the political and medical fraternity. While the country is under a national lockdown, political leaders, the medical fraternity and influencers are building awareness, promoting social distancing and hygiene measures to contain the virus. The government has taken the society approach to control the virus at community level first.

While social distancing forms the core of controlling the virus till vaccination is developed, India's healthcare system has taken necessary steps to detect patients, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts so that the disease can be controlled. Along with the lockdown, public health interventions have supported tremendously in controlling the pandemic.

But in a country like India with a high density of population, urban clusters would require more steps to avoid large scale community spread of the virus. Despite slow growth trajectory, the country is witnessing spike in the number of cases in the last one week. While the government is taking enormous steps in controlling the numbers, if every citizen takes equal responsibility, India will be even better than the rest of the world.

The recent situation of Dharavi shows that India needs a more systematic approach at every community level and actions from MLAs, RWAs and each society member to contain the disease. Keeping in mind the socio economic characteristics of the country, it is very important to take measures at society and communities with sankalp and sanyam.

Technology can be used as a tool to connect at community levels. With smart phones and affordable Internet penetration into urban, semi-urban and even parts of rural India, it should be used as a weapon to bridge the communication gap taking place due to social distancing. People can connect digitally with each other; build awareness about situations in their respective societies, RWAs can take control measures accordingly and make people active and socially aware. If every community is aware and takes necessary actions, India will involuntarily witness a flatter curve at state levels, and then at the national level.

Here are four ways how digital interaction can make communities more active during the COVID crisis.

Societies can communicate: With social distancing forming the core; social interaction has become the biggest challenge in every community. Digital interaction will solve the very first challenge of lack of communication within communities. Remember the feeling of oneness while clapping together from our houses or lighting candles, digital interaction can empower everyone with the sense of being together, helping build community spirit.

Help trace COVID positive cases: People showing COVID-19 symptoms can convey the same to RWAs, necessary steps can be taken to inform medical authorities and quarantine the person. Such information sharing can mobilize the heads of society and steps like sanitizing and conducting thermal screening can be taken to protect other members of the society from contracting the virus.

Connect with local vendors: While online e-commerce platforms have come to the rescue by helping people with groceries; people faced the challenge of getting delivery slots due to sharp surge in demand. If people could connect with community grocery stores and vendors, pre-ordered the items and collected it whenever feasible, challenges with groceries could have been solved at community level itself.

Build neighbor knowledge: Lockdown and social interaction can act as a catalyst for us to know our neighbors and society members. Other than sharing society based awareness building communication, technology can be used to build neighbor relationship to the next level. We can help an elderly couple in the society struggling with groceries or medicines. We can connect with an expecting mother in the society and chat with her on a daily basis just to extend the moral and emotional support.
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Nikhil Bapna

President, Simply Local

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