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YOUR GO-TO GUIDE TO AAROGYA SETU — AN APP TO HELP CONTROL THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 IN INDIA

 

WHAT IS AAROGYA SETU MOBILE APP?

 

Available on: iOS, Android

Price: Free

 

As described by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, “Aarogya Setu is a mobile application developed by the Government of India to connect essential health services with the people of India in our combined fight against COVID-19. The App is aimed at augmenting the initiatives of the Government of India, particularly the Department of Health, in proactively reaching out to and informing the users of the app regarding risks, best practices and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19.”

 

To put it simply, the Aarogya Setu app tracks, through a Bluetooth and Location generated social graph, your interaction with someone (even unknowingly) who could have tested COVID-19 positive. The app sends out alerts accompanied by instructions on how to self-isolate and reach out to a medical facility in case that happens.

 

HOW CAN YOU CREATE YOUR USER ACCOUNT ON AAROGYA SETU APP?

 

Getting started with the Aarogya Setu mobile application is quite simple. The moment you install the app, it prompts you to choose your preferred language and then walks you through its purpose and information it will provide you. Following which, it will display a screen which states the app permissions. The app requires you to set your device’s location sharing to “always”, enable Bluetooth so that it monitors your device’s proximity to another mobile device, and also seeks your permission to share the data it collects with the Government of India. All these permissions are mainly required for contact tracing.

 

As soon as you agree to this and enable your device’s GPS and Bluetooth feature on, it takes you to the screen, which asks for your mobile number and verifies it with a one-time password. Now when your mobile number is verified, you need to input your details like your gender, age, name, profession, and travel history. After that, the app prompts you to take a self-assessment test to ensure that you’re at a low risk of being infected with COVID-19. You must reply with the utmost honesty to get the accurate test results. In case, your test result shows that you’re at a moderate or high risk of being infected with COVID-19, the app gets back to you with the safety guidelines to follow and also suggests you to call the helpline to schedule your test.

 

Otherwise, the app takes you to a dashboard that has basic information about COVID-19, including social distancing and hygiene protocols. It also has details to on how one could donate to the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund, better known as PM-Cares.

 

WHAT IS CONTACT TRACING? HOW AAROGYA SETU APP CAN HELP?

 

During an infectious disease outbreak, only one thing that could help prevent further transmission of the virus is old-school detective work: finding each sick person and then figuring out who they recently interacted with. This monitoring process is called Contact Tracing. Keeping that in mind, the Aarogya Setu mobile app has been developed through a public-private partnership under the guidance of National Informatics Centre. Details about this partnership are not officially available yet. Nevertheless, let’s understand how this app works.

 

When the Aarogya Setu app is installed on your phone, it detects when your phone comes within Bluetooth range of any other Aarogya Setu app user’s phone and records the time and GPS location at which the contact took place. The app uses this information to contact and/or inform those registered users you have come in contact with over the past 30 days in case you test positive for COVID-19.

 

Similarly, you’ll be notified, if as a result of having come in contact with any persons who have tested positive for COVID-19, you have a risk of being infected.

 

The Aarogya Setu app, hence, makes the overall monitoring process easier as the data collected through the contact tracing feature helps the official authorities in charge to take an immediate action of quarantining people by easily (and timely) knowing who could be at a high risk of being infected with COVID-19.

 

WHY AAROGYA SETU?

 

Say, you met someone a week back at a gathering or were in a close proximity of someone unknown at a public place, and in a few days, he/she has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

In that case, Indian Government will trace back all touch points of that person, through the active devices that were in close radius of that person, in the past 14 days. By active devices, we mean they have Aarogya Setu app installed.

 

A notification will then be sent to all such contacts with an advisory on further course of action, like to self-isolate or to get the test done at a nearest testing centre, as needed.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS AAROGYA SETU APP?

 

For this app to work to the best of its capabilities, it requires at least 50% of India’s population to download it. This is again a challenge given that only over 500 million people among India’s 1.3 billion have smartphones.

 

But having said that, this app could be useful if it has been downloaded and actively used by people in your neighborhood, nearby markets, or workplace where you often or visit daily.

 

Therefore, it is recommended for you to install this app, as well as encourage people around you to get this app installed on their respective phones. It is a mandate to keep your device’s GPS service and Bluetooth always “ON” especially when you step outside your home so that the app could timely inform you if you ever come in contact with someone who has recently tested COVID-19 positive.

 

Also, it is worth mentioning here that the Aarogya Setu app’s Terms of Use agreement says that you should keep your phone in your possession at all times in order to eliminate the risk of you being falsely identified as being COVID-19 positive or not being identified when you are.

 

Overall, by participating in active contact tracing, you’ll help minimize the spread of COVID-19 and enable Indian Government to implement proactive measures for everyone’s well-being.

 

ARE THERE ANY PRIVACY CONCERNS?

 

According to the official press release about the Aarogya Setu app, “The App’s design ensures privacy-first. The personal data collected by the app is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone till it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.”

 

But having said that, it is tough to comment on the privacy concerns (for instance, who all has an access to the app data in the Government) given that we have no other choice at the moment rather than downloading this app as it could help the government officials in tracing people who are likely to be at a high risk of being infected with COVID-19, in the shortest time possible.

 

It is still recommended that you read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy thoroughly before signing up on the app.

 

APART FROM HELPING GOVERNMENT WITH CONTACT TRACING, WHAT ARE OTHER KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF AAROGYA SETU APP?

 

  • Available in 11 languages. In addition to Hindi and English, the app supports nine more Indian Languages, i.e., Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Punjabi, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati, and Marathi.
  • Take Self-Assessment Test. The app uses a chatbot based interface, enabling you to take a COVID-19 risk-assessment test any time you feel that you might have developed COVID-19 symptoms or have come in contact with someone who has tested COVID-19 positive. The chatbot asks you simple questions about your health like your symptoms, medical history, and potential exposure to the virus (as a healthcare worker, or via international travel, or known contact with a COVID-19 patient) in order to assess your chances of developing the novel coronavirus infection. The app will suggest necessary guidelines to follow in case it finds out there are moderate chances of you being infected with COVID-19. Note: You should not try to manipulate the test results by replying incorrectly.
  • Stay Updated. The app features all the latest information about the COVID-19, including do’s and don’ts, safety guidelines, and timely updated tally of COVID-19 confirmed cases across the country. Moreover, if you have any e-pass issued, then it will automatically be available in the app.