The government is India wants every citizen to download Aarogya Setu app, including the ones having a feature phone.
As the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t showing any signs of slowing down any time soon, the Government of India is taking every possible step to make sure the majority download Aarogya Setu app – the recently launched tracking app to curb the virus from spreading further.
In recent news, the Government of India has mentioned that they will soon be expanding the functionalities of the Aarogya Setu app to feature phones as well. This will be done by the Centre partnering up with telecom giants such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone-Idea, which will, in turn, enable calls to their subscribers.
In India, the usage of feature phones is still very much dominant over smartphones. There are 1.15 billion mobile subscribers in India and out of those only 505 million use Smartphones. A whopping 56.39% of all mobile phone subscribers in India are still hooked to feature phones. Hence, targeting feature phone users who are at equal risk of getting infected as those who are in Urban areas or use smartphones. Making the download of Aarogya Setu app by as many people as possible will help the government to track the infection of Coronavirus.
An IVRS aka Interactive Voice Response System will be made available via a central helpline number ‘1921’ in feature phones. This will be checking for all the COVID-19 related symptoms much like the smartphone app itself and then alert the local health authorities who will then take in charge of the situation from thereon.
Furthermore, for smartphone users who are yet to download Aarogya Setu app, Abhishek Singh, the CEO of MyGov said that they will soon start getting notifications from their service providers to download it.
As of right now, around 80 million people have successfully installed the Arogya Setu app which will start alerting its users if they have recently come in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual by using the GPS location and Bluetooth on their devices.
The Director of NITI Aayog, Arnab Kumar said that the team of the Aarogya Setu is currently busy with the advanced testing stage of the app on Jio feature phones which operate on the KaiOS and is capable of running certain specific apps only.
He also added that the medical team of Ayushman Bharat is reaching out to provide medical intervention to people who have self-declared the coronavirus related symptoms via the app. Over 75,000 calls have been made so far according to him.
Earlier, on Wednesday, the Centre government passed an order to make the download of Aarogya Setu app compulsory for all central government employees. The government also made it mandatory for employees working with PSUs aka public sector undertakings and other autonomous bodies as well. They should all review their “status” on the app before reaching office.
The order also instructed that all migrant labourers and other stranded people who are now being shifted to their home states should also be highly encouraged to download the app through which their health status can be tracked and monitored very easily.
‘Mandatory’ Download Of Aarogya Setu App Raises Concerns
The ‘mandatory’ nature of the download of Aarogya Setu app that is being enforced by the Indian Government isn’t sitting well with everyone in the country unanimously. Several privacy activists have now started raising concerns over it including the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF).
According to the IFF, “The Aarogya Setu app which was initially touted as a voluntary measure has been made effectively been made mandatory for gig workers and government employees. This is despite failing to adhere to data protection standards and lacking algorithmic accountability.”
On the other hand, Apple and Google’s tracking technology which has been rolled out in the beta form in the U.S is also being criticised because of privacy and security concerns. However, it won’t be rolling out worldwide any time soon on all iPhone and Android devices. This is because both these companies have a long way to go in terms of battle testing the tracking features.
Also, another significant roadblock for Google and Apple’s inbuilt technology would be to figure out how to collaborate with local public health authorities for reporting purposes. This is something that the Aarogya Setu has already figured out and put in place.
Now it remains to be seen how effectively these technological innovations are able to curb the pandemic and to which extent. We will keep you informed on all future developments. Stay tuned.