Credits: Google

Sundar Pichai-led Google has announced that it will be testing a new feature on its Maps platform, in a move to further expand its COVID relief work in India. The feature will provide information to users regarding the availability of liquid medical oxygen and hospital beds at certain select locations, at a time where the country’s healthcare system is struggling to cope up with ramping infection numbers.

For now, the information provided will include medical oxygen suppliers and hospitals.

The information provided by the new feature on Maps will run on a database that will be generated by the company. This will happen with the help of question prompts that will be sent to users by Google Inc., if they happen to be at a particular facility, such as a hospital or a liquid medical supplier. This database will then be used to provide important information to prospective future users of the same facilities. So far, however, the company has not revealed any concrete method on how it will be determining the accuracy of this information. This can indeed prove to be a difficult task, as responses might become altered due to personal bias of the users. Moreover, in the face of the second (and perhaps, the upcoming third) wave of the COVID-19, Google might also face the challenge of rapidly updating the information provided, as shortages are becoming increasingly common.

In fact, the company itself agreed that since the “feature will be based on user generated content and not provided by authorised sources, it may be required to verify the accuracy and freshness of the information before utilising it.”

Crowd-sourcing responses from the general public will be playing a major role in the testing testing the new feature. It will be rolled out to other locations in the near future, based on the feedback received from users.

Apart from providing information about oxygen and bed availability, Google is also looking to provide information regards COVID vaccine centers through its Search and Maps services. As of now, over 23,000 vaccination centers will be covered under the programme, and the information will be provided in eight regional Indian languages, apart from English. Information on around 2,500 COVID testing centers will also become accessible to users through both the platforms. In fact, in this endeavor, the company behind the world’s  biggest search engine has joined hands with the Department of Health and Family Welfare under the Government of India, so as to make valuable information easily available to Indian users.

Another perk while looking up information regarding the vaccination centers through Google will be that the search engine will put up “information panels that display the latest updates on vaccine safety, efficacy and side-effects.” These panels will also contain important “registration information that directs users to the Co-WIN website.”

Learning about the different COVID vaccines and their effects and side effects will also become easier as Google plans to create special playlists of videos on YouTube, to provide “authoritative information” regarding the same. It says that this will help provide information regarding health schemes, as well as prevent any misinformation from being disseminated.

The slew of programmes that Google is coming up with to help with the COVID-19 situation in India are under the relief fund worth ₹135 crore that the company had announced back in April.