On 16 January 2021, India launched the largest vaccination drive under the vision of Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Technology has played a crucial role in bringing the idea of universal vaccination closer to reality. The CoWIN platform has been developed to be the digital nerve centre of India’s COVID-19 vaccination process. However, with evolving technology and the country’s large population, some challenges need to be addressed.
To initiate a dialogue on how technologies such as the CoWIN platform can propel the vaccination drive towards the ultimate goal of Universal Vaccination, Center for ICT for Development (CICTD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi and The Dialogue organized a panel discussion on “Strengthening CoWIN Platform towards Universal Vaccination” on 16 June 2021. To set the context for the deliberation, IMPRI’s team began the session by providing a brief overview of the CoWIN platform, its features, challenges and steps taken by the government.
Robust and Scalable System
Shri Abhishek Singh, President and CEO, National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India, specifically emphasized the need for designing digital systems that are robust and scalable. In referring to systems that had been in place before, Mr Singh stressed how they operated on a smaller scale with much simpler dynamics than CoWIN that has to deal with complexities that arise due to the broader scope and the need for multiple doses. Therefore, the need to maintain records using digital systems becomes an undeniable necessity. Mr Singh argues that the vaccination drive cannot be undertaken without a robust digital system despite the digital gap.
Additionally, he stated that the need for digital certificates especially comes to the forefront with the increasing necessity of travel, considering that international states would never accept paper certificates. He also states that functionalities have been added to maximize optimacy as and when concerns have arisen. Thus it’s essential to acknowledge that the system has been responsive, agile and has evolved according to the situation. The massive numbers of registrations on the platform and the ability to track all information are testaments to the successful functioning of the platform.
Mr Singh stated that while risks exist, as long as the authorities are aware of how the system operates and newer functionalities are being added, all challenges can be addressed. He also appreciated the integration of the CoWIN platform with the Aarogya Setu and other third-party applications, which can then be used as effective tools for tracking the status of vaccination. To conclude, he stated that the CoWIN platform constitutes a clear, well-designed architecture. It allows for open APIs and establishes a trust-based system with citizens to provide to the world an example that they can follow.
Mr Singh emphasized how CoWIN as a platform will keep on evolving. More functionalities will be added, especially concerning children and the integration of passports for ease of travel. He also highlighted the potential of Aarogya Setu’s vaccine status system that plays a crucial role in promoting COVID appropriate behaviour.
He concluded by stating that the experience of the CoWIN platform and the advantages of the digital systems will remain with us. A strong foundation has been laid, and moving forward; we will be secure both in terms of health and cybersecurity. No system is perfect; we learn as we go, systems are improving, and we hope that it will keep improving so that India can present to the world a shining example of Aatmnirbhar Bharat.