With more than 600 cases of COVID-19 reported in the country, the Indian government is ramping up its efforts on the ground to ensure things don't escalate beyond its control.
Which is why the development of a new coronavirus tracker app hardly comes as a surprise, as it has become impossible to reach out to all those affected by the virus across the country.
The app called CoWin-20 is reportedly in the works, and the project according to a News 18 report is being overseen by Niti Aayog. The app is being beta tested with a few users on Android and iOS and will be rolled out in the coming days after getting approvals from Google and Apple.
Tracing Millions Using Your Phone
The government will be using this app to trace the travel history of millions of people in the country, and enable users to check if they have come in contact with anybody who has tested positive for the virus.
But according to the findings in the TNW report, the app will utilise the location data of your phone as well as Bluetooth connectivity data to ascertain your contact history with other people. In fact, the app is likely to assist you with details of the areas that have reported a large number of coronavirus cases.
The report also points out the app will only share your data with the health ministry if you have tested positive for the coronavirus.
But we’re not certain about the process which will be used by the government to trace the affected among millions in a large geographical area like India.
The report suggests anybody who reports positive after testing will get a notification about their condition.
It will also display latest Ministry advisories, and share updates on latest development on the pandemic in the country as well as give details about test centres nearby your location.
What About Privacy?
Tracking location can raise privacy concerns, but the report says the app will keep the data of the users encrypted within the device and it will not be disclosed on any public platform.
But even then organisations that advocate data privacy are likely to raise the alarm bells yet again, especially when nobody knows how long the data will be stored and who takes responsibility for it. We’ll be keeping a close watch on the developments of the app once it launches.
For the CoWin-20 ecosystem and the tracker feature to become a success, users will first have to download the app. How does the government plan on making sure that everybody installs it on their phones?
It’s likely the government will have a nationwide campaign encouraging people to use the app, something they did for promoting the use of UPI digital payments across the country.
But then with 502 million smartphone users in India, according to research firm TechARCH, it's only about 39 percent of the population that can access this app. What about the rest?
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