BHUBANESWAR: Coronavirus pandemic has prompted governments to adopt technology in different ways to strategise their action.
In Odisha, the State Government deployed security checks and enforced restrictions to contain spread of infection by analysing the movement patterns of people in Covid-19 hot spots. Behind the analysis was a team of researchers from IIT-Tirupati.
Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), the IIT-Tirupati team led by Dr Kalidas Yeturu of Computer Science Department, analysed Facebook datasets, available for researchers and non-profits as a part of their Data for Good Program.
These anonymised and aggregated datasets, better known as Disease Prevention Maps, have helped IIT Tirupati to come up with near real-time mobility of people pointing at non-adherence of lockdown restrictions in particular areas of Odisha.
The analysis eventually helped State administration shape its strategic action. Mobility analysis showed spurt in movement of people in various pockets of Jajpur, Sundargarh, Balasore, Bhadrak and Bhubaneswar, despite lockdown restrictions.
Jajpur district’s Katikata, Brahmabarada and Sana Trilochanpur, Nala Road of Rourkela and Puruna Bisra in Sundargarh, Niliabag in Balasore and Tesinga, Kharida and Binayakpur in Bhadrak reported a spike in number of COVID-19 cases.
At least three places in Bhubaneswar - Bomikhal, Satya Nagar and Surya Nagar - saw a jump in COVID-19 cases during a particular period. Some of those regions, which recorded high night movement of people, later turned out to be containment zones.
“A software developed by IIT-Tirupati, GeoCov19, is being used to generate automated reports to list top 10 reg i o n s for the Stat e administration to focus on,” said Dr Kalidas, principal investigator for the project.
On May 15, researchers observed movement of about 1500 people at Mission Field gate, near the entrance of Niliabag as well as Bomikhal. Similar movement was noticed at Tesinga on April 20, May 6 and 16, at Sana Trilochanpur on April 27 and May 5 and at Satya Nagar on May 18.
Odisha used Tirupati IIT mobility analysis to track infection
Apart from Facebook datasets, the IIT team received red zone and ward-level coordinates from Odisha Government. This has been helpful in prioritizing areas.
“These values are computed for morning, evening and night times. Average values of mobility are determined to prioritise regions of high mobility especially during nights,” informed Dr Kalidas. Secretary, Information Technology department, Manoj Mishra said, globally, technology is playing a vital role in helping to track and limit the spread of COVID-19.
“We have partnered with Facebook and through them with IIT Tirupati to get research-based analysis for insights to understand the degree to which communities in red zones are adopting physical distancing and whether more stringent enforcement needs to be deployed. We are reading these reports daily to have a real-time view of important correlates of disease transmission and thank Facebook and IIT Tirupati for supporting us with such important research work,” Mishra said. Dr Kalidas said his team saw sudden fluctuations during April 22-24, when lockdown decisions changed.
The findings showed that people continued to flout public health guidelines and lockdown protocols. They also saw increase in population counts which match with the inflow of migrants.
“Disease prevention maps have helped organisations respond to health emergencies for over a year. In the coronavirus context, researchers and non-profits are using the maps, which are built with aggregated data that people opt in to share, to understand and help combat the spread of virus,” a Facebook Company spokesperson said.
The IT Secretary said, the State Government is using technology for many purposes during these challenging times and such research can be used in future for crisis response, such as cyclones.