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NEWSTALK1010 host Jamil Jivani invited Ashish to speak on his popular Toronto talk show, Tonight, with Jamil Jivani about the state of the pandemic and the optimism Jamil feels when learning about technology innovations that might help return us to “some semblance of normalcy”. Talking about Clear360, its purpose, mission and applicability in organizations in Canada, the US and beyond, Ashish explains why he hopes to work with Canadian government and institutions. As Darwin Labs is a Canadian,Vancouver-based company, he expresses his desire to help end COVID-19 quickly and believes technology to help enact behavioural change is one of the answers. Ashish and Jamil’s discussion begins at approximately the 9:20 minute mark. Click here for audio recording of their interview.

Ashish Anand, Founder & CEO of Darwin Labs
Ashish Anand – Founder & CEO of Darwin Labs, Clear360

Transcription of the Interview:

Jamil Jivani: Well, top of mind for all of us these days, regardless of where you live across the country is COVID-19. How are we going to get some semblance of normalcy back, how are we going to get control over this virus, are we going to continue to be locked down and dealing with the economic and mental health and spiritual consequences of that? All these questions are running through all of our minds and anytime we see someone who might have an idea that could help us take a step forward in the right direction, it’s a thrill to bring them on the show. Because I love being able to hear what other people are thinking, and how we might arrive to some solutions on this. And that’s why I’m very happy to welcome to the show Ashish Anand, founder and CEO of Darwin Labs. Ashish, welcome to the show.

Ashish Anand: Jamil, thanks for having me.

JJ: Well, thanks for being with us and thank you for the innovative work you do and your company. Tell us what is Clear360? And how is it relevant to the, the challenge that we’re all focused on right now COVID-19?

AA: Thanks for having me on. So, I’m a software entrepreneur from Vancouver. Darwin Labs is a digital health innovation lab so we create solutions for digital health using cloud, AI, mobile and mobile technologies, so Clear360 is a solution we developed to help safety, a solution for schools, colleges and workplaces. And what we’re trying to do is bridge the gap between what public health is doing in terms of coming up with and doing the research, looking at therapeutics, looking at best practices, looking at what’s working around the world and coming up with guidelines and the behaviour that they’re trying to elicit in all of us in terms of behavioural change. So we’re kind of the middle layer between what public health guidelines are coming out with and the behaviour changes. needed, but we’re wanting to see where the system that we’ve developed helps achieve that.

JJ: Yes, I mean, for those of us who are not tech entrepreneurs and may not fully grasp what a “cloud-based” platform accomplishes. Let’s take a specific challenge we’re looking at like tracking COVID transmission in schools right now. I mean all of us, whether you have kids or not, we’re getting these updates, you know from our provincial governments across Canada, every week letting us know how many cases they’ve discovered in our schools. How does Clear360 help us think that through and and respond to that problem?

AA: Sure. So, this is really really topical I mean there’s over 140, as of today might even be a little bit more than that, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in schools. I think that’s just in Ontario – across Canada that’s probably a higher number. There’s over 580 students, almost hundred 70 staff members. So, really, really big challenge, as we’re trying to keep schools open. Enable kids to get better education. Enable parents to go to work. And what we do is we make the job of people that are in the role of actually implementing these health guidelines, so school administrators and safety officers within schools and school districts. We provide a solution that makes it very easy for them to implement these guidelines. So, I’ll give you sort of a very specific example so all of the different public health agencies and this goes across North America. They’re all requiring a daily health check or daily self screening, kind of a pre-arrival clearance, if you will. They want you to answer questions like if you have symptoms, provide details on what symptoms you have, whether you’ve traveled, whether you’ve tested positive. Whether you’ve been in contact with someone who may have tested positive. And based on what your answers are, you’re either cleared to go into school or not. And if you’re not, then you have to self-isolate or quarantine. And in that time your symptoms have to be monitored just to make sure that they don’t, they don’t worsen. So our solution, makes it so that it even takes it out of the paper and pen and pad method, like whatever manual methods schools are using and puts it online. Whether students or the parents in the case of students that are too young, they use a mobile app. They do daily health checks, and they get either cleared or not cleared, and if they are cleared then the school knows that everyone that’s coming in and is symptom-free, has not traveled and so on. And what that really accomplishes is all of the protocols and the schools are putting in, so for example distancing and masks and so on, all of those become more effective. Because you’re just taking, you’re taking notes, the people that normally would have just, you know, come in. If they had some terms or were higher bids and makes everything more effective in terms of the schools of trying to accomplish. So our solution just makes just put it online puts it on autopilot and saves hours and hours of time for school administrators who have to do this manually today.

JJ: So how do we get to a point where technologies like what your company is developing are tested and seriously considered by governments? I mean, is there a way for us to kind of get better at integrating our governmental responses to things with the sorts of technologies that are being made available? Are there barriers that are making that difficult?

AA: You’re asking a really really good question. I would, look at the countries that are held up as models. Today, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, other Asian countries that wouldn’t include China, they’re in a separate category, because it’s just the way they do things from their governmental system but what other Asian countries that are held up have done. They have almost single digit cases, or just very, very low community spread. If you actually look at what they’re doing. I think part of it is just the way they use technology. And I don’t mean just they as a society, I mean, the government institutions, the public health agencies, they’re just a lot more open, culturally. I think they’re just more open to, they’re more transparent, they’re open to trying things, are open to innovation. We do have a cultural challenge in North America which is really odd because we see ourselves as quite a progressive culture, you know, there’s a western country. But the reality is that a lot of our government agencies are, you know, they just the way they’re built and the way they’re designed, they’re they’re not really open to innovation, they’re coming around but it’s a very slow process. So I think the way we get there is by embracing innovation, embracing the idea that you can actually try something on the small scale, see if it works, and do more of it. And I think, on a societal level as well, we have a responsibility to understand that this is – these are extenuating circumstances. We’re getting our temperatures checked. We’re having to do the screenings, we’re having to wear masks, we’re having to stand six feet apart. We have to play our role as well as even our dentists. And I think it’s a collective for both sides, but it does start with public health agencies. You know I really, really value what they do. But if you actually step back and look at what they’re putting out, it’s primarily instructions, it’s PDF files, they’re providing you know they’re publishing instructions on what we should all be doing. And I think we can you know with the technologies that are available we just, we can do a lot more we can manage this a lot better. So that’s what we’re trying to do.

JJ: Yeah, well you know, good on you for taking this challenge on and, you know, if your technology is able to help us address a piece of this puzzle that we’re all trying to figure out right now. I hope people will take a closer look at it for anyone listening who wants to learn more, where can they learn more about Clear360?

AA: It’s very, very easy to find. We are in the process of rolling this out to a number of different organizations and schools. And what we’re finding and it’s a little bit tough for us – we’re getting much better reception in the US, that we are in Canada, although we have and we’re doing pilots here as well, but we’d love to do more, you know, we’re a Canadian company. We’re a proud Canadian company, we’d love to help Canadian organizations, more than anyone else so we’d be happy to help in any way. And you know that this thing will eventually come to an end. This is our perspective, but we want to, we want it to come to an end, as fast as possible. And if technology can play a role, then we’d be delighted to see the end of this.

JJ: Well said. Thank you for joining the show Ashish, and anyone wants to learn more about Clear360. It’s very simple, Clear360 dot com.

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