India is going through a health crisis like never before. The world’s largest democracy just recorded close to four lakh COVID-19 cases and about 4,000 deaths in a day. While countries across the globe are gradually taking control of the COVID-19 situation, India is struggling to deal with the second wave.
The social media platforms have stepped up to the plate to make up for India’s flailing healthcare system. The last couple of weeks have seen Twitter, Facebook and Instagram flooded with leads for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, plasma and Remdesivir etc.
With help pouring in from all directions, verifying the authenticity of leads has become paramount. However, it’s easier said than done.
To that end, Introbot is helping citizens with verified leads to save lives. Introbot was founded by Ohwow! founder and Stanford University alumnus Utkarsh Roy, and Divyaansh Anuj, a former Data Engineer at Oracle and founder of Dextra.
Introbot was conceived to provide a centralised information source for virtual communities (think founder communities, business ecosystems, VC portfolios etc). However, with the second wave hitting hard, Divyaansh and Utkarsh decided to repurpose their bot to help people with information related to COVID-19 instead.
The platform provides users with an evolving and verified database of beds, oxygen cylinders, plasma and other sources. While Divyaansh focuses on the tech part, Utkarsh handles the business side of Introbot.
How does it work?
The first step is to WhatsApp ‘COVID’ to +1(234)517-8991, post which the AI community manager helps them connect with relevant members based on broad objectives or specific needs. The sender can then respond in the ‘X in Y’ format (for example,”Hospital bed in Bengaluru” or “Plasma in Mumbai”). Introbot will share available leads along with details of when the lead was last verified.
Launched around a week back, Utkarsh said, Introbot has been seeing a 10-15,000 spike in queries every day, with users seeking critical medical information through the Whatsapp bot. First week into the launch, the bot has already served almost half a million requests for medical supplies.
The team collaborated with groups like Covid Citizens to recruit 350-plus volunteers, who manually fed data to the system. Today, the helpline has partnerships with more than 15 initiatives across the country, building India’s largest database of medical supply. Introbot has over 25,000 entries for oxygen cylinders, oxygen refills, beds, doctors, ambulance services, COVID-19 meals, among others, at a city-level
Introbot uses conversation AI on the front-end. The sourcing of information is extremely challenging today, with data from multiple sources. “It is very difficult to take in all the data available on social media, do a string passing analysis on them, cleansing the data and then making the machine understand what that data means, and be able to serve it to users through the bot,” said Utkarsh.
Both humans and tech do the collection and verification of data. The verification process is three-tiered and is automated using a built-in system that does the pan-India mapping.
Secondly, each city and postal code has seen a massive demand and supply gap. Thus, load balancing becomes taxing as well. Introbot is dynamically load-balancing the supply-demand process (to the tune of 100-requests per minute). On the supplier side, a lot of data cleansing has to be done.
Introbot uses an algorithm for this and has a supply and demand feed. Taking in all the information, the platform stores all the data in its central database, feed it to the algorithms and uses a recommendation engine to match the supply and demand.
Introbot works like a crowdsourced real-time instant system for the demand and supply of medical resources and COVID-based requests, much like what Uber does for cabs.
“All of this happens in real-time, making the process all the more complicated,” Utkarsh adds.
The third challenge comes with removing fraudulent and suspicious entries. The team removes the leads from its central database based on tips.
Parallelly, Introbot makes sure Whatsapp vendors (Zendesk, Landbot.ai), systems’ are in place to handle the volume of requests. The platform does not collect any data apart from phone numbers.
“We do not know who the person is, do not have any data on their age, gender or backgrounds. There isn’t much data that we are collecting in the first place. We have privacy policies and Terms and Conditions in place as well. We do not allow anybody to get access to personified information,” Utkarsh explains.
Introbot facilitates the initial search and fastens the process of arriving at a verified lead by reducing the number of calls to verify sources significantly. Additionally, once it makes leads available, it seeks feedback on whether the lead is helpful, responsive or invalid. Once it receives the feedback, it updates its database.
Introbot has responded to over five lakh-plus COVID-19 affected families, positively impacting over 25,000 lives. The platform’s services are used by Twitter-based Covid India Resource Bot (founded by Rahul Raina and Naman Gupta) to generate verified COVID-19 related data.base