Covid- 19 latest: Aarogya Setu upgraded for online medical consultation even as data privacy debate rages
Even as a political debate over Aarogya Setu application rages in the country, the NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Sunday tweeted that the app has been upgraded further to include facilities for online medical consultations, ePharmacy and home lab tests.
According to information available on the Google Play, the app initially developed for contact tracing of coronavirus positive cases and suspects, has been installed in over 5 crore devises across the country till April 28.
“AarogyaSetu now brings to you to Online Medical Consultations (call and video), Home Lab Test and ePharmacy. AarogyaSetuMitr, the stack powering this new feature, is developed in collaboration & partnership of @NITIAayog and @PrinSciAdvGoI,” said the first of the two tweets by Kant.
The app developed by the ministry of electronics and information technology was first launched on April 2 and it was initially promoted by the government for voluntary use, pitched as a device meant for advance warning the user and the authorities, in case of contact with a Covid 19 infected person or a suspect. The app uses cellular location mapping technology and Bluetooth to track users and their movements.
Later, the government promoted the app as a tool among several others employed for coronavirus containment efforts and the prime minister himself vigorously stressed on the need for its mass use to increase its efficacy.
The app’s formal induction as a containment tool was completed on May 1, when the government made its use mandatory for people in containment zones and for office goers, which led to questions around data protection and privacy raised by the opposition parties and also some experts. While Rahul Gandhi called it a “sophisticated surveillance tool” being controlled by a “private operator”, the ruling party slammed the criticism as motivated and ill-informed.
According to Kant, the app has now been scaled up further in partnership with the NITI Aayog and the Principal Scientific Advisor to the government of India, to provide online medical consultation, online pharmacy and laboratory tests at home. Kant added that more than 200 doctors were providing their services to the app and more were being added.
“AarogyaSetuMitr has voluntary participation from organizations, industry coalitions, and startups. More than 200 doctors available through the day to medically assist you. More doctors being added. We Step In, So That You Don’t Have to Step Out,” his second tweet said.
Apart from the new features, the app tells users how many people are using the app within a radius of 500 metres to 10 km and how many positive cases or suspects have been detected in the area. It also carries a few government advisories on containment efforts.