Google, which reaches more than half a billion people in India, is turning its services into tools to help the world’s second-largest internet market fight the pandemic.
Google said on Monday it has rolled out a range of updates to its Search, Maps, YouTube, and Google Pay services in India to display and boost authoritative and credible information about the coronavirus to help people in the South Asian nation find vaccination centers and other resources to navigate the crisis.
Google Search, which has been offering updates on the virus for more than a year, now also displays information panels with vaccine registration details in India and highlights the official Indian government website for the vaccine at the top.
Search, and Maps that have been showing 2,500 testing centers in India now similarly also indicate locations of over 23,000 vaccination centers across the country in English and eight Indian languages. The company said it is working with India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to source this information.
Google, which identifies India as its biggest market by users, said it is also testing a Q&A function in Google Maps in India to enable people to ask about and share local information on the availability of beds and medical oxygen in select locations in the country.
The new features rollout comes as India reports over 350,000 infections and over 3,500 fatalities every day. The nation’s healthcare infrastructure is struggling to serve patients, having primarily run out of beds and medical supplies. On May 1, India opened vaccination to those aged between 18 to 45, leaving people in scrambles as they struggled to register on the government website and secure the appointment for a vaccination dose.
In recent weeks, scores of firms, startups, entrepreneurs and investors have stepped up to fill this gap. And Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp have become the real-time helpline as people exchange leads with one another.
Google said it is also using its various channels to help extend the reach of health information campaigns in India. This “includes the ‘Get the Facts’ around vaccines campaign, to encourage people to focus on authoritative information and content for vaccines. We’re also surfacing important safety messages through promotions on the Google homepage, Doodles and reminders within our apps and services,” it wrote in a blog post.
On YouTube, Google has curated a set of playlists with videos that offer authoritative information about the vaccine, the spread of the virus, and facts from experts. The company said it has also rolled out a COVID Aid campaign on Google Pay to enable users to donate to nonprofit organizations such as GiveIndia, Charities Aid Foundation, Goonj, Save the Children, Seeds, UNICEF India (National NGOs) and United Way.
The company said a similar campaign to support several other foundations has raised over $4.6 million.
“As India battles this devastating wave, we’ll keep doing all we can to support the selfless individuals and committed organizations on the front lines of the response. There’s a long way to go — but standing together in solidarity, working together with determination, we can and will turn the tide,” read a blog post signed by the COVID response team at Google India.