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Case Study

Societal Platform Missions: Responding to COVID19 Crisis – Part 1

COVID19 is an unfolding, long-term tragedy that has the potential to wipe out decades of development efforts. The ongoing nature of this pandemic warrants a new set of ideas that can guide our actions during this disaster and lay the ground for any future emergencies.

How are Societal Platform missions responding to this crisis? Having invested in building the foundational infrastructure needed to address large-scale, dynamic societal challenges, along with partnerships with government bodies, businesses and civil society organisations, what are the initiatives that they launched or extended to address the challenges that rose during the pandemic?

In this article, we find out from 3 Societal Platform missions working in areas of livelihoods, healthcare and urban transformation:

Digital Green: Reaching farmers in times of COVID19  

Digital Green (DG) established task forces in India and Ethiopia to adapt DG’s extension approaches and test new innovations to support farmers and their evolving needs amidst social distancing and lockdowns. Some activities include: 

  • Surveys to understand farmer needs: To remain responsive to farmer needs, Digital Green collaborated with its government partners in India to gather ground-level data via phone and WhatsApp surveys. In Ethiopia, Digital Green conducted rapid phone and interactive voice response (IVR) surveys to gather data on agriculture and health/nutrition-related needs. The results were shared with government partners in order to support their joint efforts to address the impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture.
  • Integrating digital channels of content delivery: Based on these findings, Digital Green has started testing a hybrid approach to digital extension prioritizing radio, IVR, WhatsApp/ Telegram and SMS as communication channels that do not require in-person presence for sharing information (on traders/buyers, potential buyers, agronomic and livestock handling practices, and early warning information regarding weather, disease and pest outbreaks). Digital Green also ramped up its capacity development efforts and trained over 6,500 extension workers across India/ Ethiopia since April 2020 via Mobile Training Courseware.
  • Enabling market linkages: In May, Digital Green helped litchi farmers in Muzaffarpur, Bihar realize +40% higher earnings versus existing market channels by selling directly to customers in Bangalore and Patna. Farmers managed aggregation, packing and shipping from the farm and Digital Green reached customers through Facebook, processed digital payments and orchestrated home delivery to customers. The insights from this effort have informed the development of Loop, a new platform that empowers Farmer Producer Organizations to sell directly to local customers. Learn more here

In addition to this, they also pooled-in useful links to resources from various sources that can be found here.

Photo credit: Digital Green

Project ECHO: Going viral in response to COVID19

ECHO India’s COVID19 program rapidly gained momentum as the COVID19 cases increased at an alarming pace in India. ECHO, in close partnership with the central & state government bodies, ministries of health, WHO, trained medical professionals & healthcare workers in diverse areas. The topics of these distinct sessions included amplifying the public health response, sharing best practices and disseminating guidelines on COVID-19 clinical management, and enhancing the medical response in the out-patient and in-patient setting including the use of ventilators.

ECHO’s training model links expert specialist teams at an academic ‘hub’ with primary care clinicians in local communities – the ‘spokes’ of the model. As of Sept 2020, ECHO India extended its support to the existing ecosystem of partners to run COVID programs across 318,000 spokes on topics including infection prevention and control, COVID-19 care guidelines, ventilator management, mental health support and laboratory guidance and diagnostics. Many of these spokes had individual participants but some had multiple participants, e.g., staff at medical colleges. But even by conservative estimates the ECHO COVID program has trained more than 400,000 health care workers, from village health workers called ASHAs, who participated via smartphone, to doctors and nurses treating patients in urban hospitals. Read more about their outreach here.

ECHO India also joined hands with to launch a joint not-for-profit initiative – COVID Healthcare Professionals (CHP) as a response to the ongoing pandemic. CHP is an enabling portal ( to connect healthcare professionals with institutions in search of trained personnel to support them in the battle against COVID19. The program aims to expand the capacity of the healthcare system to serve COVID patients throughout the country and also provide employment opportunities to untapped healthcare resources.

Photo credit: ECHO India

eGovernments Foundation: Co-Creation in the times of COVID – National e-Pass System & WhatsApp assistance 

One of the challenges that citizens faced during the lockdown in India was the movement across cities/states for urgent personal reasons.  The administration and police on the ground faced problems of validating those traveling for essential-services. This was the problem that eGovernments Foundation set out to solve, and within 72 hours of the lockdown being implemented in India, the National COVID e-Pass system was created with Madhya Pradesh as the first state to use it.

Post this, enabling essential products and services to move seamlessly within the state became priority. To address this, bulk passes had to be generated and made accessible to the employees with ease. With the COVID e-Pass platform, authorities could issue passes for essential products & service providers and manufacturers to smoothly operate amidst the lockdown. For citizens, the e-Pass system would expedite the process of issuing permits for critical needs including procurement of groceries, medicines and medical emergencies. The COVID e-Pass platform was up and running in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, Telangana, Puducherry, Odisha and Karnataka. eGov collaborated with volunteers from iSpirit, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, NeGD in Delhi, AWS and Consumer products companies to build this solution. Read more here

eGov also worked with the Punjab government in India to launch a home isolation WhatsApp assistant for quarantined citizens. The Government of Punjab had introduced mobile app facilities to monitor the patient remotely through a comprehensive tracking system involving health workers and experts for the entire mandated isolation period. To deliver a conversational experience for citizens, eGov Foundation enabled Punjab administration to leverage citizen’s most preferred texting platform, WhatsApp, to take this isolation monitoring facility a notch higher. HIMMAT (Home Isolation Management and Tracking Chatbot) on DIGIT (an open source platform for urban governance) was launched on June, 2020 which enabled the home quarantined citizens to share their basic health information with the health administration via WhatsApp chat. 

Photo credit: eGovernments Foundation