CoWIN is the engine that is helping India run one of the biggest vaccination campaigns in the world. And its footprint could potentially get bigger as the Centre has offered to share the platform with any country that wants to use it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a virtual international conclave that India will make the software open source for all countries to use for free and boost their vaccination drives. Here’s what it means.
Why Is India Offering CoWIN To All Countries?
PM Modi told the CoWIN Global Conclave 2021 that, as countries pursue their vaccination programmes, " a digital approach is essential" to ensure that people can prove their vaccination status in a “safe, secure and trustworthy" manner. With India’s CoWIN platform, people can readily access their vaccination certificate and “do not need to carry around fragile pieces of paper to prove anything".
But more importantly, CoWIN is a helpful aid as it enables smooth and efficient conduct the vaccination campaign itself. “Given how precious each dose of the vaccine is, governments are also concerned about making sure that each dose is tracked and wastage is minimised," the PM said. All of thi, adding that “all of this is not possible without an end-to-end digital approach".
Highlighting the key role CoWIN has played in India’s vaccination drive, the PM said that 350 million doses have so far been administered using the platform, including 9 million people in one day, a national record.
How Will Other Countries Use CoWIN?
India is the world’s largest vaccine producer, yet the country has had to contend with supply shortages and logistical challenges to extend Covid-19 shots to as many people as possible. Noting that “vaccination is the best hope for humanity to emerge successfully from the pandemic", the PM underlined how India had “right from the beginning… decided to adopt a completely digital approach" for its vaccination strategy.
Thus, “technology is integral to our fight against Covid-19" and “luckily, software is one area in which there are no resource constraints", the PM told the delegates at Monday’s virtual meet. To that extent, India
is making CoWIN an open source platform that “will be available to any and all countries". Open source is nothing but any software whose building blocks, that is the code that it is composed of, is made publicly accessible for anybody to see, modify, and build on. The PM told the meet that the CoWIN software “can be customised to any country as per their local requirements".
Which Countries Are Interested In Using CoWIN?
Dr RS Sharma, who leads the Empowered Committee for the administration of the Covid-19 vaccine, told ThePrint in an interview that as many as 76 countries have so far shown an interest in adapting CoWIN to manage their national vaccination campaigns. Reports had earlier said that countries like Canada, Vietnam, Mexico, Nigeria, etc. had expressed their intention to use CoWIN.
How Will It Help These Countries?
Short for Covid Vaccine Intelligence Network, CoWIN has been described as the “tech backbone of one of the largest vaccination programmes in the world". It was launched in January this year by the PM to coincide with the rollout of India’s vaccination drive. Initially, only priority groups like healthcare workers were being registered on the site but it is now open to people aged 18 years and above in the general public.
Spelling out its utility for countries’ vaccination drives, the conclave was told that “Co-WIN provides a transparent system that enables end-to-end traceability of vaccines". It provides interactive dashboards that give access to all stakeholders, thus removing “information asymmetry from the entire ecosystem". A platform like CoWIN can help to address issues like hoarding and black-marketing of vaccines as it enables tracking of every single dose of vaccine from the maker to the receiver.
Further, Co-WIN also works as “an active feedback tool", allowing policy-makers, to track data on adverse effects from vaccination so that they can evaluate all the different vaccines and “make data-driven decisions".
Also, Co-WIN’s interoperable design makes it easy to pursue collaborations in such a way that private and public stakeholders can build on top of the platform. An important feature is that it can serve as a “single source of truth" in monitoring every aspect of the vaccine drive.