Vietnam: Rice ATMs are feeding the poor during the lockdown

Technology doesn't have to be rocket science, sometimes a simple idea as a rice dispenser is all people need.

Rice ATM
A woman fills a plastic bag with rice from a 24/7 automatic rice dispensing machine in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on April 11, 2020.

A Vietnamese entrepreneur, Hoang Tuan Anh, a businessman invented an automatic rise dispenser, ‘Rice Atm’, that offers free rice for people who are the most affected by the lockdown.

Hoang Tuan Anh is an engineer who specializes in smart architecture and electronic locks. Once the lockdown began it left thousands of people stranded without a job. Vietnam has a low number of those affected by COVID-19 but thousands of people have had to shut down and small businesses had to be closed. He also has ensured that there are hand sanitizers and surveillance systems to keep everyone safe and ensure everyone gets food. He is doing this with the help of 3 volunteers.

Vietnam
People practicing social distancing while standing in queue for Rice ATM

Those in need can visit his ‘ATM’ where all they need to do is press a button in order to receive of uncooked rice. The machine distributes a 1.5kg (3.3lb) bagful of rice from a small silo to waiting workers, many of whom are street sellers or people who earned a living from cash-in-hand jobs like housekeeping or selling lottery tickets.

The government has promised packages but these packages were not enough for families who lived on the margins. They have rents to pay and need other foods for sustenance.

Anh’s thought of this idea when he realized that many people were giving donations for the poor but everyone coming out to provide this, together, might lead to a bigger problem. He decided to make ATMs that would reduce human contact. The cost of the machine and the rice (500KG everyday) are born by Anh. “It’s important to help the poor. Even small donations can be a big help during this tough time,” he said.

In another interview he said, “I’m going to do this until the COVID-19 pandemic ends. I’m also planning to make another 100 rice dispensers to help those in need”, Tuan Anh said. “Vietnam is facing a shortage of rice in the middle of COVID-19 time. Thus, hopefully, the community will join hands and help me with the incoming project”

It is necessary to have food and goods being made available to the poor readily. It is not only necessary to promise packages but ensure mechanisms, like the one in Vietnam, that provides the essentials quickly and regularly. India is currently facing a similar crisis, with the poor stranded in the cities with no access to essentials as they can not perform their daily jobs. The lockdown and the government’s faulty planning has left the country in chaos and hunger. Maybe innovations like this can be the respite that the poor need.

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