Ola opens its tech platform to Indian government to combat coronavirus crisis

As India scrambles to keep its citizens safe from the coronavirus, local ride-hailing giant Ola has stepped up to help. The Indian firm has made its technology platform — which is capable of, among other things, conducting real-time tracking and navigation and managing crowds — available to the federal and state governments at no cost.

Ola, which is already working with the state government in Punjab, said its technology platform can be refashioned to help the government and public service organizations manage their real-time war rooms.

The platform offers the ability to track millions of vehicles and people, and also comes with a feature that can verify via a selfie picture whether people are wearing masks. Ola uses the latter to authenticate whether the person in the driving seat is the registered driver partner. The company emphasized that it is “ensuring highest level of data privacy and security.”

In the Indian state of Punjab, Ola said the government is using the firm’s technology to track and manage over 1.7 million farmers’ produce and their vehicle movement in vegetable markets to ensure they followed the social distance protocol.

These capabilities could come in handy to state governments as several cases of large crowds formation in vegetable markets and outside the grocery stores in many parts of the country have emerged in recent weeks, according to local media reports. New Delhi announced a nationwide lockdown last month that restricts people’s movement.

In Punjab, Ola’s technology platform is also being used by the state government to issue travel passes digitally. State governments in India are issuing passes to medical professionals and others who genuinely need to leave their houses to attend urgent work.

“Ola CONNECTS is a powerful platform that stakeholders across the government can quickly deploy to benefit citizens at large amidst the ongoing crisis,” said Ravi Bhagat, Secretary Punjab Mandi Board and Special Secretary for Governance Reforms, in a statement.

The launch of Ola Connects, the name of the initiative, is the latest effort from the Indian ride-hailing giant to help in the time of crisis. In recent weeks, Ola has waived off lease rental for its driver partners, and committed to offer a few hundred dollars to driver partners and their families who test positive with Covid-19.

“All of Ola’s innovations across AI, tracking technologies, allocation and flow management are part of the CONNECTS platform. We are committed to serving the nation in every way possible and are offering this platform free of cost, dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of doctors, healthcare professionals and frontline staff leading our fight against COVID-19,” said Pranay Jivrajka, co-founder of Ola, in a statement.