Indian government has instructed all public & private sector employees to use its contact-tracing app Aarogya Setu to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as it begins easing lockdown restrictions in areas less affected by the virus.
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Aarogya Setu translates as a bridge of health was launched by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology last month. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) system behind it uses app users’ mobile phone location and Bluetooth data to assess whether they’ve been within six feet of a person infected with COVID-19.
The anonymised data is sent to a server and checked against a database of known cases and their movements. If a person with the app tests positive for coronavirus or has been in close contact with someone who has, the app shares that data with the government.
Indian prime minister shri Narendra Modi said that lockdown measures will be extended by another two weeks from 4th May but that there will be “considerable relaxations” in lower-risk areas. To keep infection rates down as the controls are relaxed, the Ministry of Home Affairs said use of Aarogya Setu shall be made mandatory for all employees, both private & public. The value of such apps is dramatically increased when use is widespread – ensuring that many of those diagnosed with corona already have the app, and thus making it possible to retrace their movements in detail.
Government has argued citizens’ privacy is protected: the identities of those using the app are not known to it nor passed on to third parties. Information will be used only for administering necessary medical interventions.