One-line solution summary:
A spatial and temporal predictive analytics Decision Support System (DSS) for CoVid-19 management
Pitch your solution.
Sparrow Analytics has been in the vanguard of CoVid-19 containment effort over months of continued response in India. Our endeavor of combining spatial & temporal data for predictive analytics on GIS platform for the state of Haryana, has helped in pandemic containment and management of tasks such as disease tracking, health infrastructure planning, internal migrant relief management, food-grain distribution, grievance redressal etc.
All this has been achieved in an ad-hoc consultative manner. To institutionalize and automate it, we are further committing ourselves to plugging gaps in data capture in this pandemic situation, effective analysis and a quick turnaround for data dissemination by proposing an automated data engine with different interfaces/access at different levels of hierarchy. This DSS will be the most critical asset for data driven decision-making.
With its architectural framework, it can be repurposed for other applications towards disaster management that have a spatial or temporal data spread.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
Working in public health sector in India – that gets budgetary allocation equivalent to only 2% of country’s GDP or $17 per capita, it’s no surprise that incident health data from ground travels to the top echelons of decision-making through a contrived and multi-stakeholder pipeline which is barely holding up.
- The data is very often non-digitized and periodicity is not adhered to.
- Lack of geo-coding and missing metadata compounds the problem.
- Continuous temporal and spatial data is almost non-existent.
- Data ‘islands’ emerge during operations due to fragmented data capture, rendering much of the information ineffectual.
- Even in basic operations like database joining using SQL queries, non-standardization or missing row entries create roadblocks.
- Communication effort is fragmented on channels such as Emails, WhatsApp or shared folders, which are not completely secure, or integrated with the rest of the operations.
- Whatever viable data gets through, very little of it is put through a scientifically veritable analysis.
Because of these systemic problems and their compounding effect, there’s a ‘red-shift’ in disease management with things rapidly moving apart, making problems more intractable than ever before.
What is your solution?
During CoVid-19 management efforts, Sparrow Analytics set up a data support team with the office of Chief Minister, Haryana to track disease clusters and emerging hotspots in the state. We also lent data support for auxiliary functions to manage ripple effects of the pandemic. In this process, we observed the challenges mentioned earlier.
Our solution is a web-desktop application that: -
- Records field data in a digital standardized format with geo-coding.
- Allows easy implementation of Geo-mapping tools for decision making with an intuitive application interface.
- Allows hosting multiple functional modules (disease tracking, relief distribution etc.) in a single project using direct data entries or imported databases.
- Leverages the data to enable information sharing through spatial analytics, using intuitive and interactive visualizations.
- Supports decision making, visualization of trends based on Spatial Science and AI/ML tools
- Due to its modular nature, is customizable and repurposable for different situational needs and can go beyond public health, into community functions such as policing, utilities, disaster-relief.
- Allows file sharing, messaging within the application to circumvent use of third-party applications.
This solution is adaptable and also scalable from a neighborhood to a city and onto state level.
Commendation from state teams benefiting from DSS version 1.0.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
The solution has the potential to serve all 1.3 billion Indians, although in pilot phase, it serves 27.5 million people of Haryana state. From gaps identified during version 1.0 implementation, we shall develop version 2.0 which due its modular architecture, can serve any district, state or federal government team managing COVID in their respective geographies.
CoVid-19 type pandemics are a double jeopardy for the state with stark public health consequences and a looming economic crisis. The application is also capable of targeting relief operations to areas with most critical needs. Recently, World Bank projected millions of Indians to be among the 60 million worldwide who may fall into extreme poverty in 2020.
This solution serves the state and its people by: -
- Giving a robust decision support system to planners; with key data insights for disease tracking, infrastructure planning, vaccination rollout strategies, relief operations, lockdown entry-exit strategies during pandemics etc.
- Suggesting targeted lockdown, elevated alerts, thereby avoiding collateral impact on people’s livelihoods.
- Acting as information trove for epidemiological assessments, unearthing linkages between various attributes and the pandemic, helping identify the most vulnerable within communities.
- One stop shop for citizens to access their local data on disease transmission, management and risk.
Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge.
MIT Solve’s mission is to solve world challenges; for sure CoVid-19 is the biggest of all global challenges. Our solution unlocks the combined power of geo-spatial analytics and AI – a pairing that's yet to be leveraged extensively in planning and operations within governance in India.
It analyzes data for informed decision-making by providing health-workers and planners with insights, tracks the outbreak through AI and GIS, helps the vulnerable – all of it making us a good-fit to the Challenge’s problem statement. Additionally, the application is scalable at all levels of governance and repurposable to handle different genres of situations.
In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?Chandigarh, India
What is your solution’s stage of development?Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model
Who is the primary delegate for your solution?
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?A new application of an existing technology
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
While working on CoVid management for state of Haryana, our product did it all - from simple choropleth maps to more complex predictive analytics in raster format. And we were duly recognized for it.
What makes us innovative is: -
- Our approach to digitize and geo-code ground level data - a novelty for India’s public health system where this isn’t generally the norm.
- The application can be used by multiple users at the district level to roll up the data to aggregated dashboards at the state level, and then further aggregation of the states’ data for national level dashboards. This method standardizes data recording from ground-level to the top and allows rapid setup of data pipeline.
- The application creates functional modules for each activity within the main project, allowing unified management of all pandemic activities.
- The application crowd-sources indicators, templates and dashboards from independent users. This participative approach invites members of public to contribute by open sourcing data (subject to end-user-agreements), drawing from expertise within the community.
- The application leverages our core team strengths including GIS, Epidemiology, Spatial Science, AI/ML, Information Tech. - thus making it a technical guide and template for development of management methodologies.
Post pandemic, some states have hired framework providers such as ESRI, Tableau and consultant teams for information integration - a slovenly approach which does not yield systemic improvements. In contrast, we are looking at full spectrum of integration of framework, databases and insight generation - a first in the public health space in India.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
The core technology powering our solution is the coming-together of the following disciplines: -
- Geographic Information System (GIS)
- Spatial Science
- Artifical Intelleigence / Machine Learning
Provide evidence that this technology works.
There are a variety of dashboards and applications of varied forms and functionalities that are currently serving the city and state governments, and even countries worldwide. Examples of some statewide and worldwide coverage dashboards are: -
These links given above, are some of the basic examples of how GIS and analytics are playing an important role in CoVid-19 management.
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
What is your theory of change?
Our theory of change is explained in 3 simple steps: -
Input - We are making a geospatial decision support system application available as a mobile-desktop application, with multiple hierarchies at varied levels of access. Alongside, we are conducting sensitization of the state teams on sampling techniques, data science basics and plan to scale it up by hiring trainers. We are setting in motion the process to identify Minimum Infrastructure Requirements (MIRs) that includes hardware and software, for each of the teams to help them transition to the full use of application in a year's time, starting immediately with Public Health, followed by Food Supplies, Water Supply.
Output - Presently, we are generating spatial data and insights through ver 1.0 of the application. Once ver 2.0 is operational, the outputs will be through an automated pipeline with full safeguard and redundancies safeguards. Through additional capabilities inserted into the GUI, planners will get to access to more detailed data insights than those currently available. Also, a quick turnaround time will be achieved between data capture to data dissemination as actionable intelligence. We are breaking down the jargon and complex number charts into simpler maps – vector images, rasters obtained from complex mathematical functions or algorithms, because a picture is always more vivid and intuitive.
Outcome - Our long term goal is to improve the health, well-being and accessibility to services for every Indian. We are working at the grassroots level, concentrating on one state at a time (Haryana for time being), to bring a systemic change to field data collection and its subsequent sharing, analysis and dissemination. We are looking at making maps and spatial representation of data as popular and intuitive, as numbers stored in an excel table. We are looking at digitizing the information gathering process. We are looking at every instance of data collection being geocoded. Lastly, in a very concise form - we are looking to break the status quo in India with respect to data and, bring governance onto a phone screen or a desktop as scientifically veritable insights and analysis.
Select the key characteristics of your target population.
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?
Currently our solution serves the entire 27.5 million people of the state of Haryana in India, as the pandemic affects each one of them and not a particular category among them.
In a year’s time, the solution would be serving the state of Haryana and the city of Chandigarh, which put together will be about 28.7 million people.
In 5 year’s time, we are looking to add the states of Punjab, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Delhi – adding 137 million people, reaching a combined mark of 166 million people.
This carefully chosen growth trajectory will give us enough time to proportionately expand our team, capabilities and help us emerge as a mature market leader.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Goals within next year: -
- Deliver the proposed product to the Haryana state with full capability integration with their existing health framework.
- While at it, keep looking for potential new partnerships. Already made contact with neighboring state governments in North India and the city government of Chandigarh.
- Look at ways to raise capital. Grants, Debt and Equity instruments – it could be any of it.
- Look to form technical partnerships with institutions like MIT and other organizations working in this space.
Goals within next five years: -
- Make this product and the brand, a recognizable and proven name in the tech-enabled public health solutions.
- Look at having successful and proven implementations in states across India and South Asian countries that are currently lacking a cutting edge data tool to tackle pandemics and other public health challenges.
- Look at expanding the data engine’s capabilities and also have proven examples of implementation in areas other than public health.
- Keeping up with product development and building more USPs into it, to keep up with the competitor challenge since this space will soon have a lot of new entrants, post CoVid-19 pandemic.
What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?
Possible barriers that we can see for next year: -
- Financial – Since we are largely a bootstrapped, self funded venture, we are looking to raise capital to make our next phase plans reach fruition.
- Product Development – Our product is a relatively new concept in public health space in Haryana and India. We don’t have many precedents to emulate, so we will be setting our own product benchmarks.
- Indian Bureaucracy – Health sector in India is tightly controlled state matter with state bureaucracy calling the shots on virtually every aspect of it. Breaking this status-quo may be a challenging task.
- Outreach – We hope that our product’s capabilities will be its selling pitch. However, we do recognize the need to tap into newer markets and hence, we need a well rounded strategy on outreach and product positioning.
Possible barriers that we can see for next five years: -
- Adaptability – To adapt to functioning of different state governments, where cultures and style of working can be in stark contrast to what we’ve seen.
- Competition – Although we don’t see much in terms of competition within India at this moment, but in a few years, we do see competition in this space heating up as governments (states and federal) see the benefits of investing more into Tech based initiatives in public health space.
How do you plan to overcome these barriers?
- Raise just enough capital at the start, to have sufficient funds for product development needs while also ensuring our focus firmly remains on maintaining our fiscal prudence and lean philosophy.
- Invest the maximum on developing a robust and fail-safe product that delivers. We feel that much of the barriers for a young company like ours, are removed once we have credibility and market goodwill. These 8 weeks of volunteer work with the version 1.0 of the dashboard, has generated enough credibility and goodwill for the state to be interested in looking at our application’s version 2.0. And that was because for 2 months continuous, we could deliver data insights, customized to their context and on time, without fail.
- By developing a close working relationship and rapport with governments and personnel in key industries. As an example, State of Haryana has shown keen interest in tech-enabled governance and we've already developed a great trust with our work during the CoVid-19 outbreak, which gives us a higher platform of acceptance. Such initiatives can start dialogues and spawn newer opportunities.
- By staffing our team with the right personnel. While we are a team of multi-taskers, we do feel the need to have designated people manning specific tasks for accountability and overall company health.
- By keeping ourselves aware of the peer research and development in this sector. While we shall have confidence in our own capabilities, we shall always keep ourselves aware of the market direction and advancements.
What type of organization is your solution team?For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models
How many people work on your solution team?
Advisory Role: 3
How many years have you worked on your solution?
Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
The core team along with the advisers, possess professionally and academically acquired skill-sets that are very pertinent to the development of this application. They are: -
- Data Science which includes AI/ML
- Spatial Science
- Network Architecture
- Database management
- Software application development including graphical user interfaces
Dr Debanshu, has also been assisting India’s federal ministry of Health, handling the country-wide containment strategies. Aditya is an expert at GIS implementation and AI/ML integration in environmental, social services, law enforcement and utilities sector. One of his recent works has been the mapping of vulnerable communities on India’s coastline from the Arabian Sea to Bay of Bengal, using GIS and predictive analytics. Mrityunjay is an expert in application development and implementation strategies for AI/ML.
Dr. Debanshu and Aditya are Fulbright scholars from 2015-17 cohort. While in the US they were at University of Texas at Houston and Georgia Tech respectively, where they developed their skill-sets on some of the best available methodologies and technologies. They also leveraged their network of international colleagues to draw in best practices in the field of COVID management to support their respective roles.
This is a team of innovators with top notch industry experience and specialist domain knowledge. The lean approach to problem solving is well reflected in the make-up of the team with domain experts being the actual working hands on the deck, building the product brick-by-brick.
What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?
- We have implementation partners: -
- We are working with the Haryana Government – using their data, existing infrastructure, ground resources to test and deploy the pilot.
- We are working with Haryana Police’s CID wing – using their data gathered from a network of ground personnel, to assess demographically, the pandemic affected internal migrants/refugees.
- One of our advisers is currently a doctoral candidate at Vanderbilt University and works on CoVid management team for state of Tennessee.
What is your business model?
Ours is a for-profit privately held company registered under the Company's Act of India. We are essentially a Software Application as a Service (SAAS) company that develops customized decision support systems powered by GIS, AI/ML.
In the public health sector of India that is tightly held by the government, we see governments (states and federal) as the key customers through whom we serve the people in our community. We are providing scientific consultancy and support that’s been packaged as a technology application and we work for some of the most underperforming public service sectors of India. Our first two forays have been public health and groundwater depletion but we are simultaneously working on collaborations in environmental sector, demographics and even law enforcement.
Our USP is exactly what the governments and institutions in India need - the integration of Data Science, GIS, Public Health etc. with the government’s role in provisioning of essential services at the grassroots level. Having extensively worked at the State and National government offices at all levels in India, we have an excellent grip on the systemic issues and feasibility of implementation.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?Organizations (B2B)
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Our path to financial sustainability is based on pragmatic growth projections and through principles of lean management of business operations. Global artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare market is primed to grow by a whopping 50% CAGR between 2018-23. India is going to be no different as post CoVid-19, governments are looking at leveraging data science to meet the innovation demands in the burgeoning healthcare sector.
- We are presently focused on delivering the product that we have envisaged in the previous pages. The cost estimates for it are realistic. And there is an institutional acceptance from the state government, since they have been already using the vanilla version of our geospatial data engine.
- We are looking to keep our Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) at a minimum by focusing on delivering a quality product and within projected timeline, which will help us generate traction and further business.
- Also the nature of our product is such that the Customer Lifetime Revenue (CLR) is steady and continually growing as more modules keep getting added to the framework. This means a steady revenue even after the product has been delivered.
- We are focused on keeping our margins healthy. Hence, we are not spending too much too soon on expanding team or incurring peripheral costs that may jeopardize our financial sustainability plans.
Why are you applying to Solve?
MIT Solve has been supporting innovations, path-breaking ideas across sectors and across geographies, for many years now. When we bring our solution to MIT Solve 2020, we do that with certain outcomes that we have in our minds.
The immediate outcomes that we are looking at are: -
- A grant that can help us sustain and expand the operations through the pilot phase.
- Knowledge partnership and Mentorship for product development.
- Reaching out to others in Solver community and much beyond, which then opens up potential partnerships and avenue of business development for us.
The long-term outcomes that we are looking at are: -
- Create recognition and awareness among India’s populace and its policymakers on how science and data can be a great enabler in times such as a public health crisis or even help mitigate the effects of climate change induced emergencies.
- Espouse the cause of social and community driven initiatives that can grow big into mature and sensitive enterprises that can balance business considerations with social good.
- Be an incubator and a nursery of ideas, for bringing a positive change and rejection of the status quo.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Please explain in more detail here.
Our choices above reflect the specific needs we have identified as we scout for potential partners: -
- To help improve and fine-tune our solution and also helping us understand how to distribute services across the various level of hierarchies that we are dealing with, from ground-level to the top. Because it is always a good idea to learn from your industry peer group.
- Helping know the right price and revenue-generation model for our application. As we said earlier, there are no clear precedents or benchmarks for the application that we are developing and it’ll be great to have a partner who helps us with that.
- Helping us fine-tune our marketing and outreach strategy. We would love to spread our wings further and develop plans on how to reach out to potential users and customers, well beyond the geographies we currently work in.
What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?
We are looking at access to some of the following specialized resources people from MIT as our partners / mentors
- The Spatial Science resources at MIT for insights into product development of this nature.
- Deep Learning resources at MIT, for helping develop our product
- Sloan School of Management startup incubator for business development needs and broader understanding of business development as we negotiate this period of product development.