The Government of India has deployed several tech solutions to educate the country’s citizens in the fight against the Coronavrius pandemic.
Aarogya Setu App
Since its launch, the app has managed to gain massive fame, to the point that the World Bank has called it out as an example to follow.
The World Bank, in its South Economic Focus report, says, “Digital technologies can also be used to monitor the spread of Covid-19. Such initiatives, largely voluntary, have been successful in helping combat the pandemic in East Asia. Incentives also can be provided to those who report symptoms. India recently launched an app, Aarogya Setu, that uses location data from persons’ smartphones to tell users if they have been near someone who tested positive for Covid-19.”
What is Aarogya Setu App?
For those unaware of the Aarogya Setu app, the COVID-19 tracking mechanism is a “mobile application developed by the Government of India to connect essential health services with the people of India,” as per the app’s description on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
In addition to imparting knowledge on Coronavirus through do’s and don’ts and common safety measures, it helps the users track their nearest COVID-19 help center. In essence, the app does a much more important function, it helps people track their risk of exposure to the virus based on their location.
How does Aarogya Setu App work?
This works with a combination of GPS and Bluetooth. Aarogya Setu uses both in a user’s smartphone to inform the user of any risk of exposure. The GPS is used to track the user’s real time location, while the Bluetooth tracks a close proximity (up to 6 feet) with someone with a history of Coronavirus.
The Aarogya Setu app uses a database from the Government of India of the known Coronavirus cases in the country for this functionality. So there is no need for the app to be downloaded by all in the country in order to build its database. This also allows users to use the app without sharing their information on it. The functionality also differentiates the app from other such efforts by the government, like the Corona Kavach.
How to set up Aarogya Setup App?
Aarogya Setu registers users through their phone numbers. For this, users can download the app from Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Once done, the app sends a one time password (OTP) to the entered mobile number. The app will then ask you to fill in personal information including name, age, preferred language (the app supports 11 languages) and more. Users can choose to skip this if they are not comfortable sharing their details.
Aarogya Setu can keep tracking the user’s vicinity as long as the location tracking is active. In addition, the Bluetooth of the device has to be kept on as well.
The app ensures that a users’ location data stays offline on their device at all times, i.e. until the user is possibly exposed and chooses to share it. As per its claims, the app data is shared only with the Government of India — and not with third parties.
NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant recently took to Twitter to mentioning how the app was paving the way for global tech leaders. He wrote, “India leads the way in contact tracing for Covid-19: privacy first by design, secure, robust and scalable to billion users. Glad to see Apple and Google joining hands to develop contact tracing on the lines of Aarogya Setu,” tagging Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
The tweet highlights the two tech giants recent collaboration for an upcoming app that will help the US fight the pandemic through a similar tracking model as used in the Aarogya Setu app.