Ritesh Reddy is a software engineer at Google, California, USA. Hailing from Bangalore, Ritesh grew up in Jamaica, West Indies.
In California, he got the opportunity to participate in Sai center/samithi events including various service activities including tutoring local school students. Ritesh has been intrinsically involved in SKCT’s Covid helpline seva 2020-21 as an integral member of the Tech team. The helpline had thousands of volunteers assisting covid-affected families access information on essentials such as bed, oxygen, food, medicines and more. With all hands on deck, the tech team played a huge role in ensuring all volunteers were available assist with fulfilling patient requests by completely automating the helpline. Ritesh shares his experience of being a part of this volunteering effort.
I got involved in the Covid Helpline Tech Automation project on Wednesday May 5th, 2021. That day, the moment I woke up, for some reason I felt a strange calmness and immediately decided that I needed to “do something”, not sure what!
After a few hours, in one of the many Whatsapp groups that I’m a part of, a message was posted asking for help with some Whatsapp technology, without much context, however, I felt the urge to research and respond despite it being a working day.
After some back and forth, the person who asked the question found a solution elsewhere, but I continued my own research and understanding.
In the evening, I got added to another Whatsapp group and had my first briefing call with the tech lead of the project who explained the whole process of the SKCT Covid Helpline to me and what systems they had in place, what works, and where we needed help.
My immediate thoughts were “I would like to help where you need something” which was to create a “chat bot” to help front-end volunteers get cases, and update statuses without involving back-end volunteers.
I set out to work on this the whole of next day and had a basic PoC ready. But by the time I was ready to present it, there were other more pressing issues: the current automation was not scaling correctly to other cities and wasn’t reliable enough.
I suggested an alternative approach that makes collaboration easier, and the automation more reliable using a technology called AppsScript.
Before going on to write the “First bot” a couple of us discussed the architecture: we decided to separate code, configuration and data! The code would process a single row of data with sentinel values on whether to process it or not, which number to send the message to and what the message is. The data would be created via various Google Sheets formulas and so MANY aspects of the behaviour of the system could be modified without changes to code! This single principle has been the biggest reason for the scalable, reliable and simple automation we have today.
Although this was the first bot, by the end we had about 6-7 bots, including bots for auto backups, escalating hard to deal with requests, reminders for stale requests and even meta bots such as those monitoring the status of our other bots to ensure that it’s always live and running.
After this first phase, we built an Asset Tracking system in a very similar way using Sheets and Forms and AppsScript for the Oxygen Concentrators. This time we leveraged AppsScripts’ more advanced features to provide a web portal/web view for custodians, automated the processing of concentrator tasks, built dashboards to track the history of an asset, cross reference patient records and everything.
The automation has many elements that Swami likes: simplicity, elegance, sustainability, and inclusivity – many non coders have been a part of the tech team as the solution was only 20% code and 80% configuration that many could help with. All in all, we could see the various puzzle pieces falling into place through Swami’s divine hands and am grateful to have spent my time in His service at SKCT.