That a pandemic devastates all existing systems is anybody’s guess. On the brighter side, it inspires different people in different ways. CovidWire (‘https://covidwire.in’), a web application for mobile phones, is one such instance. It is a media initiative by two youngsters, to curate authentic COVID-19 related news and provide translations for the same.

Sarigama Yerra, 23, a research scholar from IIIT-Hyderabad, and 20-year-old Poobesh Gowtham, who studies design at the IDC School of Design, Mumbai, have thought ahead of their years, and taken up the initiative to provide authentic news related to the pandemic in accessible and easily comprehensible snippets.

“There was so much information overload about the pandemic from several sources, some with questionable authenticity, that we felt there was a need for a single platform where verified news could be collated and provided in readable format, without resorting to sensationalism or click-bait,” Sarigama said.

When they shared this idea, several friends from across the country with varied backgrounds enthusiastically joined them. Within three months, they could put together the web app, and provided access from various social media platforms. Intending it to be a crowd-sourced platform, they started calling out for volunteers.

More volunteers

“Soon, we have grown to 100 in number. Our volunteers are from all kinds of backgrounds, including doctors from COVID wards. We have data analysts, and even homemakers who have volunteered to translate,” shared Sarigama.

As of now, CovidWire core team has different specialised groups for social media, technology, and design, while their content teams extend to the six regions they serve — Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

“Each region has a team leader, under whom three teams work respectively for curating the news, preparing short, lucid digests of 70 to 100 words, and translating them into respective local languages,” Sarigama explained.

The team has a bank of of 85 verified news sources, which include research portals besides mainstream dailies. Any news not from these sources will not be accepted. Social media forwards, too, will be checked against these sources to find out their veracity. Each news digest has a link to the original source, for anybody wishing to verify.

Quality matters

While the initiative is still in nascent stage, as witnessed by a number of auto-translations with quite a few inaccuracies, Sarigama hopes that the quality will improve as more volunteers join.

“A pandemic of this magnitude will have implications in various spheres panning over a decade. We will stay with this story of pandemic as long as it lasts,” she signed off.

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