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AarogyaSetu App
Cover Feature

Aarogya Setu App: Controversy has no meaning

Despite adequate information about AarogyaSetu App available and as Press Releases and Social Media posts on 2nd April 2020 at the time of its launch clarified, the App was developed in a public-private partnership. On every occasion, it was mentioned that the AarogyaSetu App was developed by NIC in collaboration with volunteers from industry and academia. However, someone’s passion for creating controversy never ends. The officers responsible for providing information also must have acted responsibly without passing the buck on to other offices and officers to respond to an RTI demand.

After the orders passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on an RTI query about AarogyaSetu App, the government noted the issue. As per the orders, CIC, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), National e-Governance Division (NeGD) and National Informatics Centre (NIC) were directed to appear on 24th November 2020. MeitY, in its recent press release, indicated that it was planning necessary steps to comply with the orders of the CIC.

The ministry clarified that there should be no doubt concerning the AarogyaSetu App and its role in helping contain COVID-19 in India. The AarogyaSetu App was developed in a record time of around 21 days, to respond to the exigencies of the pandemic with lockdown restrictions only for the objective of building a Made in India Contact Tracing App with the best of Indian minds from industry, academia and government, working round the clock to build a robust, scalable and secure App. Since 2nd April 2020, regular press releases and updates were issued on AarogyaSetu App including making the source code available in an open domain on 26th May 2020. The names of all those associated with the development of the App and management of the App ecosystem at various stages were shared when the code was released in the public domain. Every information was shared widely in the media also.

On each of the occasions, it was mentioned that the AarogyaSetu App was developed by NIC in collaboration with volunteers from industry and academia. AarogyaSetu app was developed most transparently and all details and documents including privacy policy and AarogyaSetu Data Access and Knowledge Sharing Protocols issued on 11th May 2020 were available on the AarogyaSetu Portal – aarogyasetu.gov.in. The portal carried all details about the App including those regarding how the App works, COVID updates and why one should use AarogyaSetu. Regular updates about AarogyaSetu App were shared on all social media platforms as also government portals.

Yet, someone found a way to question and seek information. Interestingly, the concerned departments, which were supposed to share information also seemingly opted to be ambivalent about the App. This is only an issue of sense of responsibility at a high level. Every controversy emerges either because of poor transparency in communication or failure in applying prudence.

According to the Press Information Bureau’s release, the App has been downloaded by more than 162.30 million users. It has helped identify Bluetooth contacts of COVID positive users and issued alerts for helping people to stay safe. These Bluetooth contacts have been advised for caution, quarantine or testing depending on the extent of exposure to COVID19 positive user. Amongst those who have been advised testing, almost 25% have tested positive. This is much higher compared to the overall positivity rate of 7-8%. Thus, the efficiency of testing has gone up with AarogyaSetu. Besides, AarogyaSetu ITIHAS interface with location data has helped identify emerging hotspots where proactive steps have been taken by Health authorities and administration to contain the spread of the Virus. Thus, AarogyaSetu has proved to be very useful in India’s fight against COVID19. Recently, WHO has also appreciated the role of AarogyaSetu in containing the pandemic in India, says a government press release.


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