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(India) India, health and artificial intelligence (Shoba Suri, Marco Emanuele, The Science of Where Magazine)

The Science of Where Magazine mets Shoba Suri, a Senior Fellow with the indian think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF)’s Health Initiative. Shoba is a nutritionist with experience in community and clinical research. She has worked on nutrition, healthcare, infant and young child feeding, policy advocacy and assessment. Shoba is a trained Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling specialist with more than 40 research publications in scientific journals and books.

For ORF (January 8, 2021), Shoba wrote an interesting article titled CoWIN app for vaccine, telemedicine: 2021 is the turning point for India’s healthcare through AI

Can you explain to our readers what the CoWIN project is and its importance, in this pandemic phase, for a country like India? 

Co-WIN (COVID -19 Vaccine Intelligence Network) is an extension to the existing electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN) module for it to be a comprehensive cloud-based IT solution for planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of COVID-19 vaccination in India. It is an end-to-end solution that has utilities for the entire public health system from national up to the vaccinator level. Co-WIN system on a real time basis will track not only the beneficiaries but also the vaccines, the utilization, wastage, coverage of up to the sub-national level. In the first two phases of the vaccination process in India, frontline workers and medical professionals will get the vaccine. This will be followed by people over 50 years of age as they are more at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

Our magazine deals, in particular, with technology for a more human society. The issue of public and global health is at the center of attention of all of us. What are the opportunities and risks of technological innovation in this field? 

Yes, with advancement in technology we have entered a digital era and much of information is stored, processed and transmitted digitally. Like it or not we have become more dependent on technology to access and receive healthcare. We have started to access health information digitally and with mobile apps booming that help us do it all –be it monitoring our activity, sleep, diet or medication. Digital technology can be helpful in transforming the unsustainable healthcare into a more sustainable system. But there is risk of information in the public domain and how this is used or transferred.

Technologies are strategic but also economic. How is their growth linked to a possibility of circular economic development, as many hope it will happen?

Technology innovation and economic development are co-related. Technology signifies increased output and efficiency and is here to stay. It helps economies of developing countries by reducing the costs of production, encouraging the growth of new business, and advancing communication. India is not far behind and has embraced science and technology to improve the national economy and the lives of its citizens. For India, the IT sector has made governance more efficient. However, there are hurdles of poverty, rural urban divide, limited access to education, and resources that hinder in achieving the goal.

Finally, India is a major technology hub. What are the prospects of that great “country-continent” also looking at the Asian macro-region? 

India has been ranked second as the global hubs for tech innovation. Technology companies in India have driven growth, created jobs, increased access to resources, education, and healthcare. It has led to fall in poverty levels and improved lifestyles; however, it also negates the labor market. As per World Bank ‘South Asia to become a hub for innovation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution’. The onset of the 4th Industrial revolution is driven by advance technology, AI, and robotics. So, the prospects look promising.