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Free Software Movement creates tool for translating CoWin portal into regional languages

With the digital divide in India creating hurdles for citizens looking to register themselves for the COVID-19 vaccination, a team of hacktivists from the Free Software Movement of India has come up with a tool for web-browsers that can translate the CoWin website to regional languages.

On Mozilla Firefox, users can now translate the website and its contents (cowin.gov.in), which is only available in English, into eight regional languages — Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Urdu, Hindi, Marathi and Odiya. In the coming days, FSMI plans to integrate the translation for 22 regional languages so that citizens all over the country can avail themselves of the facility.

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A team of hacktivists from FSMI told MediaNama that the project took five days to develop. “Our volunteers at FSMI’s branches in various States helped in the translation process,” said one of the hacktivists on the condition of anonymity. They also have plans to include Santhali (tribal) languages and northeastern languages such as Khasi in the add-on.

“We are developing this add-on to prove localization of COWIN portal can be done quickly and easily, along with disproving claims of the officials that it will take a long period of time to make it multi-lingual,” the “About this extension” section of the browser ‘Add On’ said.

The CoWin portal has been rife with errors since its inception and its functioning has exemplified the already-present digital divide in the country. These issues, coupled with the lack of vaccines in the country and a number of city folk flocking to rural areas to get their jabs, has deeply disadvantaged rural India in quested to get vaccinated.

This was again brought to the forefront on Monday when the Supreme Court questioned the Indian government on its COVID-19 vaccine procurement policy and the need for mandatory registration on CoWin, PTI reported. “You keep on saying the situation is dynamic but policymakers must have their ears on the ground. You keep on saying digital India, digital India but the situation is actually different in rural areas. How will an illiterate labourer, from Jharkhand get registered in Rajasthan? Tell us how you will address this digital divide,” a special bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, LN Rao and S Ravindrabhat asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the report said.

How Does The Add-On Work?

  • User needs to install the add-on
  • Go to the Cowin website
  • Click on the Cowin add on from the toolbar
  • Choose the preferred language

However, it is important to note that the server-side of the website — the page where a citizen needs to put in their OTP, details to register themselves on CoWin or where one has to select the healthcare facility for their vaccine appointment — has not been integrated to translator add-on. “We would be needing access to the CoWin APIs for translating the server side of the website,” the hacktivists said.

A few days ago, The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) issued guidelines for the use of CoWIN Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) by third-party Application Service Providers (ASPs). According to the terms, applicants who want to use the API should only collect as much data as is necessary; should specify the purpose for collecting data; data must be deleted on or before the end of the retention period and so on.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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