When PM Narendra Modi extended the country’s lockdown till 3rd May, he also made a persuasive plea to citizens requesting them to download the Aarogya Setu phone application to track Corona Virus contact infections, emphasizing on the fact that without extensive adoption, it may not operate as required.
Aarogya Setu app was launched earlier this month and manages location data and Bluetooth passage to identify people who may have walked close to probable COVID-19 patients. Besides the reasonable effort to restrict the spread of the pandemic, the app also gives a database of appropriate public learning about the disease.
Accessible on both Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, the Aarogya Setu app seeks some essential user data such as age, name, gender, health status, and countries visited. This is accompanied by a self-assessment after which it approves the user’s safety status.
And, this is where the difficulty comes in. When two smartphones with the Aarogya Setu app installed come into each other’s range, they trade information and if one of the users has examined positive for the virus, the other gets informed about potential infection. And, both cases are reported to the government.
ICMR, the apex body expressing and implementing biomedical research in India, had asked 4.6 million experiment kits in March but have suffered delays. This especially from Chinese corporations with whom an order of 7 lakh kits was placed in March.
Given these extreme delays, the government last evening went ahead and allowed the use of made-in-India kits alongside those shipped from China, France, and Germany. The current order from India’s Supreme Court on creating rapid tests necessary and free for socially underprivileged who were registered under a low-cost health policy adds a judgment of urgency to the issue.
This means that till the rapid testing flows wider across the urban groups and moves into the remote areas, the Aarogya Setu application may not have the accurate data to support users ascertain whether they did manage social distancing or not.