Aarogya Setu: Will it work in Nagaland?

Aarogya Setu: Will it work in Nagaland?
Aarogya Setu: Will it work in Nagaland?

Clearing the air around the app with MyGov CEO Abhishek Singh


Morung Express News
Dimapur | May 8

It has been 37 days since the Government of India launched Aarogya Setu app- a comprehensive COVID-19 tracking app on April 2.

While the Nagaland Government made the use of the app mandatory for all employees in the state on May 4, there has been a mixed response from users. Besides security concerns and battery draining issues, there is an air of uncertainty around the use of the app.

The Morung Express caught up with MyGov India CEO Abhishek Singh to gain better insight on the app, its use and relevance. The former Home Commissioner of Nagaland explained the use and need of the app for everyone, including Nagaland.

“Aarogya Setu is a critical element in India’s fight against COVID-19, and is aimed at automatic contact tracing and COVID-19 related information dissemination,” Singh said. 

For the curve of infection spread to be flattened and the chain of infection to be broken, it is important to identify people who may have knowingly / unknowingly come in contact with a COVID-19 positive patient. It is especially important to identify the risk of infection of people who may not be showing symptoms yet, and this is where the role of Aarogya Setu becomes crucial, the CEO explained.


How useful is the app in Nagaland?
Since the day of its launch, Nagaland has around 82,000 downloads of the app, the CEO said.

However, The Morung Express spoke to some individuals and employees who revealed that they have not downloaded the app yet. Those who did download also had questions regarding the relevance of the app in a COVID-19 free state like Nagaland.

“I have downloaded the app as directed, but I’m not sure when it will come in handy as thankfully we do not have any cases in our state so far,” said one government employee.

In response, the CEO said that the app is very relevant even for Nagaland. “Once the lockdown restrictions are lifted and flights and trains start, there will be a need to monitor who one comes in close contact with. It is an essential tool to ensure that we all stay safe even when there are cases or when we need to step out, after the lockdown restrictions are lifted,” Singh wrote.


No smartphone? No problem
When the app was made mandatory for all employees, those who did not own smartphones were quick to retort. “How do I install the app in my Nokia 1100 phone?” one person asked.

In response, Singh said that, for non-smart phone users, the 1921 Aarogya Setu service for feature phones is available. Under the 1921 IVRS Aarogya Setu service, feature phone users get call backs if they give a missed call to 1921 and then they are asked questions on their self-assessment which is similar to the questions on Aarogya Setu app.

After the self-assessment, users get a summary of their health condition on SMS. Those who are unwell in self-assessment will also get calls for further assistance. This IVRS service is available in 11 languages.


How secure is the app?
Security concerns regarding the app have been raised by many users.  On May 6, a French hactivist, Elliot Alderson highlighted some security and privacy issues with the app.

However, Singh explained that the app is built with privacy as a core principle and ensures security of the highest order. According to him, all personal information submitted is securely encrypted and stored on the server. Location data collected is also stored on the user’s device only. No personal information is exchanged post the registration. All future interactions from device to server are done through device ID only. 

All information on the mobile device is stored only for 30 days, after which data is deleted. For all data stored on the server for non-risk users, data is deleted in 45 days. For at-risk patients, data is deleted in 60 days, the CEO clarified.

The data is sent to the server only in the case you have tested COVID-19 positive or you are at high / moderate risk of infection. 

“Government of India will use your information only for administering necessary medical interventions. Your data is not going to be used for any other purpose. No third party has access to data,” Singh reassured.


Battery consumption
While battery consumption has been a concern for some, Singh stated that the app is very light weight and hardly consumes any battery. The software does battery optimization and consumes much less battery than any other app, he said.

One user however stated that “it drains all our battery. Bluetooth and location has to be switched on all the times.” Another person commented that she had downloaded the ‘app’ but switched off bluetooth and location services as it consumes a lot of battery.

While the government insists on the importance of the app in combating the spread of the pandemic, people are still skeptical about the app. 

One user in Dimapur observed, “…very surprised to find just 2-3 users within 1 km radius even in a place like Dimapur. It will be effective only if 100% smartphone users download it and honestly assess themselves.”