A machine that dispenses rice for free to the public amid the COVID-19 outbreak is making headlines in Vietnam this week.
The dispenser, also known as the “Rice ATM,” is the brainchild of Tuan Anh, the director of an electronic lock company in the Tan Phu District, Ho Chi Minh City.
Tuan, 35, came up with the idea after realizing the danger that could be posed as people potentially jostle each other when lining up for relief goods from charitable organizations.
Close contact between individuals breaches the mandated practice of social distancing, increasing the risk for coronavirus transmission.
The “Rice ATM” consists of an automatic rice dividing system, a camera and a dispensing button controlled through an app.
Anyone out for a bagful only needs to show up before the camera, press the dispensing button and wait for 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of rice, which would flow down from a pipeline.
In photos published across local news outlets, individuals can be seen practicing social distancing while queueing in front of the “Rice ATM.”
“This machine helps reduce crowding … the recipients do not get in contact with each other and this prevents the risk of infection,” Tuan said, according to Bao Tin Tuc.
Tuan hired three people to supervise the camera and to make sure that individuals do not try to get more than their appropriate portion each day.
“I just want to make sure everyone gets [an] enough proportion for the day and there are enough left for others,” Tuan said, according to Vietnam Times.
Nonetheless, the machine operates 24 hours a day and holds a capacity of 500 kilograms (1,102 pounds). It also notifies the app when it starts to run out of rice.
Tuan reportedly spent 10 million Vietnamese dong (about $430) to develop the “Rice ATM.” He plans to make 100 more machines until the outbreak blows over.
“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,” he said.
Resident Nguyen Thanh Van is grateful for Tuan’s invention as she is currently out of business selling lottery tickets.
“I only took the right portion. One-and-a-half kilograms of rice can be cooked for one to two days, so if I run out, I can just come back to ask,” Nguyen told Tuoi Tre. “I’m struggling right now but so are others.”