The Ministry of Electronics and Information (MeitY) has rolled out a version of the COVID-19 contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu on Reliance Industries’ Jio feature phones.
For now, the app has been launched for about 5 million Jio feature phones and will be integrated with other models as well within the next few days. Jio is one of the major leaders in the feature phone segment in India and is used by more than 100 million people presently.
The development has come within two weeks after the government had announced its plans of expanding the Aarogya Setu app to all feature phones through an interactive voice response system (IVRS). For the same, the government was in talks to partner with various telecom operators including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone-Idea.
The government-owned Aarogya Setu had crossed 100 million downloads on Wednesday. It took 40 days to cross the 10 crore mark and turned out to be one of the fastest-growing apps globally at the moment.
Launched as a voluntary app, Aarogya Setu is increasingly made mandatory for several purposes. The central government has made the app mandatory for the government and private sector employees, train travelers, and those flying into India in the repatriation flights.
The app is being made compatible with other feature phone models soon so that a large section of the population can be brought under its ambit.
However, the government’s policy of making the app mandatory has been drawing flaks from privacy activists and citizens. They fear that the app may be used for surveillance and danger privacy. The location-based tracking by Aarogya Setu directly impacts the privacy and cybersecurity of the citizens.
Few of the media reports have also flagged the glitches in the app and claimed that it can be hacked. A report in BuzzFeed News said that an anonymous programmer has hacked the Aarogya Setu app to make him appear safe at all times by tweaking its code to bypass some mandatory steps.
The government, although has denied the privacy issues around the app and said that Aarogya Setu will not be used for surveillance.