As India battles a catastrophic second surge in Covid-19 spread, the vaccination drive, which was opened to all from the age of 18, is the only long-term solution in this fight against the dreaded virus.
But the CoWIN portal, which is the centralised nodal point for all things vaccination, had come under criticism for being unable to handle the humungous user load. It also faced flak for being too ‘techy’ for lay users, especially in the rural towns of India.
In the event, many civic-minded tech companies had stepped in to help people grab the few vaccination slots available using public APIs.
As it happened, it triggered more fears that tech savvy folks are further handicapping the chances of poor and older folks.
In the event, the government two days ago updated its policy around CoWIN public APIs saying that data may now be up to 30-minutes old.
30-minute delay on cached data on CoWin portal
“The appointment availability data is cached and may be upto 30 minutes old. Further, these APIs are subject to a rate limit of 100 API calls per 5 minutes per IP. Please consider these points while using the APIs in your application,” the government website, apisetu, said.
This naturally will have an impact on the effectiveness of the myriad third-party services and apps that are around to help people find vaccination slots. For, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are the ones that connect third parties to a service.
On CoWIN, they were used to automatically ferret data on newly opened vaccine slots.
But now the 30-minute delay on cached data will make the apps and services ineffective, as vaccine slots vanish in minutes.
Real-time alerts will be hit
Each app / website / Telegram group which was providing real time vaccination #slots data will now have a delayed response. The new API guidelines updated show that the data can be 30 mins old. With slots going off in seconds/minutes those alerts are worth nothing now pic.twitter.com/LZqFc942SeMay 6, 2021
These sites and apps feel that though they may not be able to provide real-time alerts, they can be of help to users find appointment slots.
Some of them have removed the search facility owing to the API changes, but have kept the alert services going.
“This is nothing but public information that the government provides on its website that we are also able to provide. We just package it in a more intuitive fashion to search, filter and navigate. And we also provide alerts on it,” Tushar Vashisht, chief executive and co-founder of HealthifyMe was quoted as saying in the newspaper The Mint.
It is a fact that some of these sites and apps were better than the official one. But their essential ‘techiness’ deterred the non-savvy folks.
So now, it may be back to square one.