World Bank lauds India’s Aarogya Setu App meant to curb COVID-19

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On Sunday, World Bank praised India’s Aarogya Setu app in its report. The app helps significantly in ‘contact tracing’ and containing the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also appealed to the people to download the Aarogya Setu mobile app.

“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,” as per the South Economic Focus report of the World Bank.

Reportedly, the app crossed the mark of 40 million active users within two weeks of its launch and emerged as one of the fastest-growing apps.

About ‘Aarogya Set’ App:

a) Aarogya Setu was launched by the central government on April 2.

b) Aarogya Setu App is developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

c) NIC is a part of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

d) It is a Bluetooth-based COVID-19 tracker application that helps people identify the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

e) The aim of the Aarogya Setu App is to augment the initiatives of the Indian government in informing the users of the app regarding the risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19.

f) People can also use this application to alert the appropriate authorities if they have come in close contact with an infected person.

g) It has a tool for self-testing also.

h) The user is asked to answer a few questions.

i) The app is available in 11 languages including English, Hindi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Kannada among others.

j) The app is available on both the Play Store on Android and App Store on iOS.

k) Other countries are also developing similar kinds of apps to limit the spread of coronavirus.

l) The Aarogya Setu app has also been promoted by several commercial banks that recently sent text messages to their customers.

m) Even the Central Board of Secondary Education also recommended all its recognized educational institutions to urge teachers and students among others to download the app.

Privacy concerns around the app:

The app states, “Your data will be shared only with the Government of India. The app does not allow your name and number to be disclosed to the public at large at any time”.

 “This state-of-the-art app will make calculations on the basis of interactions with others, Bluetooth technology, algorithm, and artificial intelligence,” according to a senior government official.

Still many experts have raised privacy and security concerns over the government-backed app. Cybersecurity experts believe that Aarogya Setu could violate its users’ privacy, acting as a surveillance tool in the hands of the government.

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