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NITI Aayog CEO Backs Aarogya Setu, Says Tech Will Help India Battle Covid-19 Crisis

NITI Aayog CEO Backs Aarogya Setu, Says Tech Will Help India Battle Covid-19 Crisis

Kant was addressing webinar on economy and Covid-19

Cites Aarogya Setu app as an example of how technology can help in combating pandemic

Aarogya Setu team has forecasted more than 650 hotspots at sub-post office level

NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said that Aarogya Setu team has forecasted more than 650 hotspots at sub-post office level, which is in addition to 300 emerging hotspots which could have been missed otherwise.

Kant, while addressing a webinar on economy and Covid-19 spoke on technology as could play a pivotal role in India’s battle against Covid-19 and highlighted how the Aarogya Setu app was helping in its efforts.

“This impact at the scale of identifying hotspots early and providing the symptomatic channel to reach the government instantly is the key to flattening the curve and breaking the chain of infection,” said Kant.

He added that through the 13,000 Aarogya Setu users who have tested positive so far, data has led to more than 150K people being assessed and alerted.

The app, which is available in 11 languages was launched on April 2, offers a self-assessment test, and captures the user’s vulnerability to Covid-19 infection and gives contextual advice. It also empowers people with information on the potential risk of infection and how to avoid it.

It also leverages Bluetooth and GPS-based location tracking to identify the possible positive coronavirus cases around the user. It detects other devices with the app and alerts users based on proximity to the device. It also captures all information and informs authorities about the movement of suspect cases.

However, the app has been under privacy concerns for data sharing and its mandatory usage. Aarogya Setu’s privacy vulnerabilities were revealed in public by French hacker Robert Baptiste, who goes by the name Elliot Alderson. According to Baptiste, anyone with the right technical know-how can find out the Covid-19 status of a given area by exploiting a flaw that allows users to set a location within the Aarogya Setu application.

Though the app clarifies that the user data will not be shared, it adds that personal information may be shared with other people for necessary medical and administrative interventions.

The government recently highlighted that the National Informatics Centre (NIC), which comes under the MeitY, will be responsible to collect, process and manage data collected by the app. The document also added that NIC shall only collect such data, which will be necessary to formulate or implement appropriate health responses.

Further, NITI Aayog chief said that India should attract manufacturing of high value as well as high technology products moving out of other countries. This may be the decade when India starts expressing its technological might, he said.

Kant further said the government is looking at schemes for several sectors such as automobiles, auto components, network products, food processing, advanced chemical cell battery and solar PV manufacturing to attract investments.

Kant said a crisis like Covid-19 needs to be tackled through frontline health workers, infrastructure, and medical facilities and technologies. India has taken an early lead in the use of technology to fight the pandemic, he said.

“Whole range of technologcal evolution from PPEs (personal protective equipment), masks, testing to vaccine development,” Kant said, highlighting about 30 attempts in India to develop a vaccine.