Indian Government requests social media platforms to promote Aarogya Setu

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BENGALURU: On Monday, while addressing workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on its 40th anniversary, prime minister Narendra Modi had a number of requests for them. One of them involved an app — Aarogya Setu — launched last week by the govt of India.

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  • “You must be able to persuade a minimum of 40 people to install this Aarogya Setu app and tell them about this,” he said. It was probably the foremost significant endorsement of the app, whose download link had been making the rounds on most WhatsApp groups linked to the BJP IT Cell even earlier.
  • In a way, this was a throwback to how the govt pushed its unified payment interface-based product — BHIM, post the 2016 demonetisation exercise.
  • But even before the PM spoke on Monday, sources told ET, an aggressive, government-led adoption drive was underway, with the ministry of electronics and information technology (Meity) activating several service providers known for their extensive distribution network: banks, telecom companies, in some cases, schools and colleges.
  • The nudge was largely citizen-focused, given the app’s value in informing citizens and alerting them about their proximity to COVID-19 infected persons or people that may have are available in contact with them.
  • But what these circulars didn’t say, was that the info generated by the app’s users (in aggregated, anonymized form) would play a task in aiding the govt make policy interventions: specifically, managing the eventual removal of the continued lockdown.
  • A cursory reading of the app’s privacy policy says that the info would be employed by the govt of India “in anonymised, aggregated datasets for the aim of generating reports, heat maps, and other statistical visualisations for the aim of the management of COVID-19 within the country.”
  • For that, it needs users. Millions of them — an honest chunk of India’s smartphone user base, which currently stands at 500 million, consistent with industry reports. “We are yet not at a stage where you’ll do universal adoption,” says an individual who was involved in consultations for Aarogya Setu, on a condition of anonymity.

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  • As of 8 April, Aarogya Setu has over 10 million downloads on the Google Play Store, while it’s also the top-tank app on Apple’s AppStore within the ‘Health and Fitness’ category.
  • Sources also told ET that the app could even have feature phones versions, with the Indian Institute of Technology Madras performing on IVRS-based features, with testing reaching “maturity levels.”

Citizen app technology platform

  • Which is additionally why each day after its formal launch, the govt found out a committee, to develop and implement a “Citizen app technology platform” over subsequent three months, with corporate titans like Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekharan, Mahindra & Mahindra chairman Anand Mahindra, and other senior bureaucrats and experts.

This “citizen app technology platform” could eventually involve the Aarogya Setu, consistent with Meity officials.

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