Coronavirus in India: Google makes finding COVID-19 vaccine information easier, to soon help check hospital beds and oxygen availability

While a lot of its efforts now are enhancements of the features that it began providing last year, these features have helped to some extent in fighting misinformation and in providing quick help.

Here’s a look at everything that Google has been doing to help people in India during the pandemic.

Google in India: Since the coronavirus pandemic first began last year, search engine giant Google has taken several measures globally and enhanced its services globally to aid people’s understanding and knowledge about the virus and its related aspects. Now that India is facing an aggressive second wave of the virus for nearly three months, Google has said that it is working with public health services, hospitals as well as non-profit organisations to focus on three areas – amplification of vital safety and vaccination messages, provision of the latest authoritative information for people and provision of financial assistance to affected communities, health authorities as well as other organisations.

While a lot of its efforts now are enhancements of the features that it began providing last year, these features have helped to some extent in fighting misinformation and in providing quick help. Here’s a look at everything that Google has been doing to help people in India during the pandemic.

Ensuring latest authoritative information

Across all of its services, Google has ensured that critical information regarding coronavirus and related topics surfaces so that people and communities are able to take care of themselves and those around them. For example, now that the vaccination drive is being carried out in India, if someone searches for COVID-19 vaccine on Google, they are shown information regarding the possible side effects, the registration details and the effectiveness. Meanwhile, queries regarding the treatment of the infection lead to guidance from Health Ministry surfacing.

This highlighting of critical information had begun last year, when the entire world had been dealing with the virus and the consequent lockdown.

Meanwhile, YouTube India’s channel showcases a playlist where tips and information about COVID-19 has been shared.

Apart from this, the company has also been augmenting the reach of health information campaigns, including a campaign around the coronavirus vaccines called “Get the Facts”.

Also read | Google CEO Sundar Pichai pledges assistance of Rs 135 crore as India struggles with challenging COVID-19 second wave

Information about testing and vaccination

Amid the second wave, getting tested for the infection has become an issue, and so is the case with vaccination, especially after the drive has been opened up for all people above the age of 18 years, due to a shortage of doses. While Google was already showing in its Maps and Search services about 2,500 testing centres, something it had started doing last year, now the locations of about 23,000 vaccination centres across the country has been added. This support is available in English as well as eight Indian languages, the company said.

Information on beds and medical oxygen

People have been scrambling in recent times to find oxygen and hospital beds for critical patients. Messages looking for leads in these regards are flooding every social media. Likely taking cognisance of this, Google is working on a pilot feature that would provide users with information about availability of medical oxygen as well as beds in select locations by making use of the Q&A feature in Maps. Using this feature, people would be able to ask others about these issues, and people would also be able to share in case these facilities are available. This means that this feature would depend on information provided by users and would not come from authorised sources.

Considering that this is the way in which current queries are being answered on other platforms as well for the past few months, how this feature aims to augment help to users is yet to be understood. In this crisis, people have been looking for verified information, because other information is being provided by people to each other in any case, and Google, using its position of being a tech giant working with several hospitals, organisations as well as health authorities, might have been expected by many able to leverage its position and provide verified and authorised information in this regard. However, it is also true that in the current situation, the more leads that people get, the better. And in that regard, if nothing else, Google might just work as any other social media-like platform for people looking for leads on an urgent basis.

Financial assistance

Recently, Google head Sundar Pichai had pledged to provide India with a financial assistance of Rs 135 crore to help India battle the second wave of the pandemic. As a part of this, the company has been holding an internal donation campaign to raise funds from employees that would be given to several non-profit organisations. So far, Google has been able to raise Rs 33 crore as part of this, and the campaign is ongoing, it has shared.

Apart from this, on Google Pay, the company has launched a COVID Aid feature, which enlists several non-profit organisations working to provide relief to people during coronavirus to which Google Pay users can donate money as per their abilities.

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