KARACHI: “What Alibaba is for handbags, shoes and clothes, Project Alloy is for healthcare supplies,” is how Anam Noor Ehsan, one of the founding members of Student Taskforce Against Covid-19 (STAC-19), explained the brand new real-time web platform that aims to connect healthcare facilities to medical suppliers and charities.
Started by a group of five final-year medical students in Karachi, who refused to remain “silent onlookers”, STAC today has brought together 700 plus young people from across Pakistan on one platform, explained Ali Aahil Noorali.
Free of cost, the online portal is Pakistan’s first healthcare resource distribution platform, linking suppliers with the hospitals and organisations that need it most. The tagline on its Facebook page: “Only 12.2 per cent doctors have access to personal protection equipment (PPE), let’s bridge the gap” explains it best.
“From day one, we knew that this pandemic was going to result in unprecedented resource deficiencies needed for the safety of our HCWs [healthcare workers],” said Noorali. “We wanted to help those who have been fighting for us desperately; we wanted to protect our corona warriors,” he added. These young minds also knew that and any solution would have its foundation on need-based resource allocation.
As luck would have it, they came across Johns Hopkins’ Virtual Design Challenge and entered and attended entrepreneurship sessions online. Terming the virtual global challenge “intense and rigorous”, with about 200 plus teams, Noorali said it helped craft this platform from scratch and refine it. “We even managed to bag the coveted ‘Honourable Mention’ award at the challenge,” he added.
While there are a few platforms that are up and running all over the world such as ProjectN95 and GetMePPE in the United States, which can be compared to Project Alloy, Noorali and his friends claim there has yet to be a more “comprehensive marketplace dedicated to healthcare resources in any given crisis — for Covid-19 and beyond”.
For now the aim is to add all the Covid-19 testing and treating hospitals to this platform, but it will expand and develop as a sustainable marketplace after this pandemic. “This user-friendly tool can be employed for natural disasters (such as urban and rural flooding, earthquakes) as well as any healthcare crises that we may face in future,” said the medical student.
But even if there isn’t a crisis of such colossal nature, there are always ongoing healthcare deficiencies such as urgent need for blood or resources where this platform can come in useful.
Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2020