India’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be hard and is so currently as well. During his speech, PM Modi again, urged everyone to download the Aarogya Setu app which is freely available on iOS and Android devices, as it can prove to be effective for identifying whether the user came in contact with a positively-tested individual. Even though we found the app to be very intuitive with respect to its usage as described below, there is little to no doubt that the lack of clarity and information provided does give rise to a number of issues, with privacy concerns topping the list.
Before getting diverted away with the interface, the main purpose of the app is to notify, trace and support users. Starting with Aarogya Setu’s interface, it’s very easy to use. When opened for the first time, the app shares its function which is to track user interaction with someone who could have tested COVID-19 positive (who also uses the app on their respective device) through Bluetooth and GPS – which always need to be turned on. The user then, must fill out personal details such as her/his name, age, profession and the countries travelled to in the last 30 days.
The app then wants the user to take a ’20 second Self-Assessment Test’ that goes on to ask if the user is experiencing symptoms like cough, fever, or difficulty in breathing followed by a simple question requesting the user’s health history with diabetes, hypertension, lung diseases, or heart disease. If you haven’t travelled abroad in the past 14 days or come in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, the app will tell you that your infection rate is low. And that’s about it.
Now, looking at this as an app for the country, where many still don’t own a smartphone – how effective can this really be? For densely populated towns and cities like Mumbai, we think the app can be effective against COVID-19 but the issue lies with the app needing continuous access to both GPS and Bluetooth data of users.
As the pandemic is still raging on, it seems like it is left to us to make a decision, whether to use the app or not – with several valid questions arising if we choose either of the two options. However, one thing is for certain: we are all in this together and we must stay home.