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COVID Relief Bangkok

Employing urban analytics to deliver strategic and data-driven relief and recovery to identified vulnerable populations in Bangkok.

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COVID Relief Bangkok was established by a coalition of organizations in the face of the devastating health and economic present and future impacts created by COVID-19. The coalition includes SATI Foundation (, Scholars of Sustenance (, and Urban Studies Lab (, with support from Bangkok 1899 ( and the Thai Health Volunteers Foundation.

The coronavirus has in the space of a few weeks completely transformed our lives, and there is a sense of foreboding that for many, the worst is yet to come. But while some people in Bangkok are able to quarantine themselves at home safely, there are many elderly and low-income households who rely on daily wages to support their families, making social distancing an impossibility. This means coronavirus spread is likely to be highest in our poorest neighborhoods, posing a considerable threat to the lives of many, but especially the elderly and those already suffering from pre-existing conditions.

In the short term, the spread must be slowed down to ease the burden on Thailand’s already overwhelmed public health infrastructure. Long term, considerable economic pain is expected here in Thailand, particularly by households that depend on industries like tourism, which have been, and will continue to be devastated by the impact of COVID-19. 

COVID Relief Bangkok has already begun coordinating and implementing a challenging relief effort to distribute masks, soaps, hand sanitizers, and basic foodstuffs to the most vulnerable groups in Bangkok, all whilst maintaining social distancing to avoid increasing the spread of coronavirus. COVID Relief Bangkok uses demographic data to identify and locate the most in-need communities based on age and income, ensuring their efforts are targeted and have the most impact. Over the past month, the effort has supported approximately 1000 households, 4000 people, and 30,000 meals in the Prom Prap, Nanglern, and Bang Khun Tien neighborhoods of Bangkok. In total, we plan to distribute 14,000 supply sets in 3 months, covering approximately 17% of the low-income communities and around 60% of the top-20 most vulnerable sub-districts.  However, there is still much work to be done in providing relief to Bangkok's most at-risk communities, as well as planning and coordinating post-crisis recovery.

Urban Studies Lab (USL) and its partners hope to build on the early success of COVID Relief Bangkok by further employing urban analytics and real-time data collection to deliver strategic coordination and data-driven relief to identify vulnerable populations in Bangkok. By integrating spatial data, household information and other important metrics, the data collected will be applied to inform improved access to food, supplies and essential urban services. These efforts are already underway, however to further support and align existing COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts, USL looks to access funding to support the development of a digital platform that helps match goods and services with urgent public needs, as well as improve communication and information sharing with and about Bangkok's most vulnerable communities. 

In addition to improved outcomes for immediate relief, this platform will enable better coordination for post-crisis recovery and future disaster management and prevention efforts, leading to improved resilience in Bangkok's urban communities. 

How will the platform work?

COVID Relief Bangkok are collecting household level data by administering surveys through the widely used mobile application LINE, as well as physical survey forms attached with distributed supply sets. Currently, the local Thai Health Volunteers and their associated Public Health Centers are acting as mediator for the data collection process. The set of data being collected includes information on general needs, employment status, job sector, access to essential services (water, sanitation, healthcare, education, shelter, internet, etc.), and access to government support. 

These household level data will then be paired with existing, publicly available demographic and socio-economic data to create and present a series of interactive online maps. The platform would be developed using OpenStreetMap (OSM) as a basis for data input, and will be used to display different layers of demographic data and needs at the community level

In the short-term (1-3 months), the platform would act as a demand-supply matching platform for basic food and supplies by providing up-to-date, location specific information on needs, with a dashboard that both communities, aid organizations and government can use to help coordinate various relief efforts.  

In the medium-term (3-12 months), COVID Relief Bangkok hopes to expand its services to further help communities get back on their feet. We believe the data gathered can be further analyzed and utilized to help different organizations develop policies and programs for post-COVID recovery. Given the differing needs and contexts of each urban community, the platform can help organizers better understand what types of services are needed where, better matching partner expertise and resources to meet the needs of local residents. These services will range from mental health support, enterprise training, language courses, digital literacy, small-scale business loans, social services administrative support, and others

In the long-term, the platform and associated maps can be used by residents to support discussions about assets and issues within their neighborhoods. This information can be presented and discussed with others in order to prioritize infrastructure projects, compare neighborhoods, and advocate for specific services or needs using data.

While this platform and pivot has come out of the immediate needs presented by COVID-19, our team sees this as a first step towards developing a long-term program for community development and urban asset management. No such platform currently exists in Bangkok, and while there are many negatives to be drawn from the current crisis, one positive is that it has brought together many motivated organizations and individuals to push towards a better post-COVID world. We believe this platform can play a major part in that effort.

What is the need are you focusing on?

COVID Relief Bangkok focuses on meeting the needs of Bangkok's most vulnerable - the elderly, low-income, disabled, orphans, and refugees. The project aims to serve a minimum 13,000 low income households - representing 17% of low-income households in Bangkok (defined as household income of less than THB 10,000). 

The overall lack of coordination and readily available information, both for vulnerable communities and those working to provide aid, is another major need that we aim to address. The Thai Government is currently unable to meet this need, and current relief efforts are largely being conducted in an ad hoc manner. The development of an open digital platform can lead to additional beneficiaries that include any organization, association or program that would benefit from access to data generated regarding the above mentioned populations in improving their coordination of COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider
  • Sharing an actual pivot your organization has already made

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

The crisis has made very clear that the current issues and future uncertainty are too big for any one entity to face alone. There are urgent needs for public-private-partnerships of differing scales and dimensions. USL is pivoting towards an Urban Living Lab model to push forward these types of coalitions. In the Urban Living Lab model being used for COVID Relief Bangkok, every partner brings with them specific expertise to the table. Each contributes to the growing ecosystem of this initiative by offering critical insight and knowledge. This empowers us to be confident that our data-driven efforts are bolstered by real-world perceptions, keeping us on the right track. Scalability and replication becomes more straightforward. Open data and an open source platform will also be the key for future pivots and adaptations now and decades to come. Initial investments in the infrastructure allows smaller enterprises or start-ups to integrate, make use of, and contribute to the platform.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Maybe-with additional support

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

Short-term impacts include increased community resilience and access to essential food and medical supplies for a minimum of 13,000 low income households - which represents 17% of low-income households in Bangkok (defined as household income of less than THB 10,000). In the medium term, we will be targeting the same group of low-income communities, using community and government networks to improve mental well-being and increase economic resilience in communities impacted by COVID-19. For mental health, we aim to to certify 1,000 people in “mental health first aid” and create mental health support network covering 15,000-20,000 households. Long-term impacts include a framework of baseline data to support future urban services provision, leading to more effective recovery and improved livelihoods, the platform will also support improved governance and policy development, not only on the impact of COVID, but also future initiatives that want to target vulnerable urban communities.

What is the name of your business or organization?

Urban Studies Lab

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

We do action-oriented research and consulting in the field of urban studies (urban planning, urban environment, urban design, social sciences and geography etc). We work with university partners to promote real world and practical experience for students and faculty through lecture series, design studios, community workshops, international summer schools, etc. The end goal is to capitalize on above programs to push forward social impact projects in urban communities, utilizing our relationships and network of partners with both private, academic and government sectors. Current projects include a Smart City Handbook for Thailand, a community engagement mobile application tool, and community-based tourism application and maps.

What is your profession?

Independent Research Institute

Where are you located (country)?


Where are you located (region)?

  • South-eastern Asia

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Academia/Research
  • Activist/Community Leader/Organizer
  • Business/Consulting
  • Education

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 1-2 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Social Enterprise

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Investment
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Civil Society Groups
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Grassroots/Community Groups

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • No

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

Availability of data is the largest barrier, which is why we will be conducting primary data collection through the process of supply distribution. However, due to the pandemic it will be hard to do field surveys or data collection comprehensively on the ground. Digital inclusiveness of the local community (literacy and access) is also a barrier. Using digital platforms for data collection may not cover all the demographics, and not all communities will have the ability to engage.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

Our work needs to be supported by data-driven decision making and be as systematic as possible. However, there must be an optimal process that allows for flexibility and agility to adapt to real local contexts, allowing the initiative to keep learning and growing. This is especially true in a place like Bangkok where comprehensive datasets are often non-existent or unreliable, requiring 'fact checking' by local partners and community representatives.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

While we joined Hackathon Thailand as the panelist for COVID-19 Hack, there is no team working on this specific solution. There are several other online platforms and initiatives, but none of them focus on the full range of relief operations outlined by COVID Relief Bangkok, mostly focusing on care packages or medical equipment, and not including post-crisis recovery in their strategies.

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