For 39-year-old Limnesh Augustine sitting in Bahrain, looking for vaccine slots for his parents’ second dose had become almost an impossible task. Helplessness overwhelmed Limnesh as he cannot help his old mother and father unfamiliar with these appointment booking systems.
Speaking with NRI Vision, the Malayali engineer said, “No matter how many times we searched the website, there were no slots available. There were too many limitations in the public searches since we had only limited options to query, so our specific requests — second dose, Covishield, 45 plus, close to our location — were nearly impossible to find. Instead, we had to search for general options and then go through each one to check if there was a second slot available.”
“There was also a limit of 20 maximum searches, and the slot would be cached. It would be refreshed every five minutes. By the time we found an appointment, it would already be booked and closed.
“But fortunately, I found that the government has published web APIs (Application Programming Interface), which is a software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other,” he added.
There were two sets of APIs — one public and the other protected. The public APIs will enable us to query with detailed parameters, and there are no session limits. Further, the query was dynamic and real-time. So, the moment the slot is uploaded in the system by any hospitals or vaccination centres, it can be queried through API.
“I had to do something on my own to ensure that people do not have to go through such difficulties,” Limnesh said. “I developed an application named CowinSearchHelper in Dotnet/C# on June 10, 2021, to utilize these APIs for vaccination search. It is a desktop application and has been designed to run throughout and alert me via SMS whenever an appointment is available in any of the centres within 5 km from my house, specifically for second dose Covishield. It worked, and we were able to get the appointment for my parents.”
When Limnesh found that many of his friends in India were facing the same issue his parents met, he decided to publish this application for public use.
“But since the SMS option uses my account, I have disabled that feature, and the protected APIs were also removed as it is restricted. But the appointment bookings can be enabled in the application, using the protected APIs for government-approved organizations and hospitals. As a good gesture, I have published the source code to the public. This is to enable more developers to come in and copy the source code I developed and reuse it to create mobile applications, desktop applications etc to help the public get vaccination slots,” Limnesh said.
The complete source code can be downloaded from the GitHub repository, and Limnesh has published it as open-source. The application does not store or transmit any information of users on any website or entity. It just helps in the search function connecting to Government APIs. Therefore, there will not be any information or privacy violation.