Can’t make an appointment for the vaccination? Or, managed to get one only to find the hospital ran out of vaccines? A host of Indian coders, who found themselves in a similar situation, managed to get around the issue by cracking the code on the Co-Win website.

Take the example of the technician based in Bengaluru, Sarthak *, who created an algorithm allowing him to automatically connect to the Co-Win site and schedule a vaccination appointment based on the real-time availability of a vaccine. in a center near his home.

“With the algorithm, I was able to receive real-time notifications as a center had new stocks,” he said. Activity area on conditions of anonymity. Once vaccinated using the tool, he circulated it among his friends to help them book slots.

Real-time notifications

Berty Thomas, a programmer in Chennai, also developed a similar tool and put it online for anyone to use. This tool provides real-time notification whenever the Co-Win website is updated with new vaccination slots for all 18-44 year olds. Its website, which provides updates for all subways and a few Tier 1 cities, saw more than 1 lakh of user traffic.

Several coders were able to beat the queue thanks to their bots because the Co-Win website has an open API or application programming interface. As Srinivas Kodali, independent researcher at Internet Movements in India, explains, “An API is essentially a software bridge. This bridge allows third-party actors such as Thomas and Sarthak to “talk” with the Co-Win website to provide information on immunization windows in a more convenient way. ”

The government may have been inspired by the United States to allow open APIs, Kodali speculates. In the US, third-party platforms such as Uber allow users to schedule a vaccine appointment using their app through an API provided by the US government.

However, tools developed by coders have now raised the issue of inclusiveness, as the bots they wrote to ping the system and reserve a slot only benefit those who have access to the platforms. line. According to the 75th Cycle of the National Sample Survey, only 25% of people in rural India and 58% in urban India have access to the Internet.

In a tweet, policy researcher Rakshith S Ponnathpur wrote: “What we needed was a free and fair vaccination policy, and what we got was technicians who book the entirety limited vaccine locations available. ”

Sarthak was forced to withdraw his tool after the social media backlash. He thinks making online registrations mandatory for vaccinations was a bad idea. “I preferred the previous system where those who entered could be vaccinated, even my parents would not be able to navigate the current system,” he explains.

(names changed on request)