The government has roped in top industry leaders Anand Mahindra and N Chandrasekharan to study the country’s technological approach to combat COVID-19. Set to function for three months, the committee will examine the disparate products developed across the nation with the goal of creating a single, common data platform for “on-boarding all citizens”.
The public-private committee consists of TRAI chairman R S Sharma, Principal Scientific Advisor to Government K Vijay Raghvan, IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney, DoT Secretary Anshu Prakash, Mahindra chairman Anand Mahindra, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran, and IIT Chennai professor V Kamakoti.
A notice read, “It has been decided to create an enabling mechanism through a public private partnership model to develop and implement a Citizen App technology platform, on-boarding all citizens in combating COVID-19, evaluating and converging related technology solutions and suggestions.”
Raghvan said, “Our actions should be coordinated and therefore, various efforts need to be communicated to each other. You have heard examples of how apps which can help ensure quarantine. These applications need to be integrated.
“I don’t mean the other apps will disappear but we need to know what other people are doing for effectiveness. If one state has three people making the same app, they can work together,” he said.
On April 2, The Indian Express reported that the “Technology and Data Management Empowered Group” to combat COVID-19 had discussed the idea of a single platform to subsume disparate efforts in their first meeting. They had also separately decided to create a COVID-19 mobile application overseen by National Informatics Center (NIC), called Aarogya Setu.
The Aatogya Setu application, with more than 10 million downloads, informs the user if they have crossed paths with anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 by using Bluetooth and GPS technology. The mobile application will be one part of the committee’s research into nationwide technology initiatives.
Tracking the phone numbers of 25,000 home-quarantined individuals, Delhi Police have lodged 176 FIRs against the those who allegedly stepped out of their home. Karnataka has a GPS-enabled Corona Watch application with spots visited by COVID-19 patients as well as an application that requires quarantine individuals to send in self-photographs hourly. Pune and Tamil Nadu too have a quarantine monitoring application, and Maharashtra has a contact-tracing application.
The respective development teams have cited global examples as inspiration, including South Korea’s “virus patient travel log” and Singapore’s “TraceTogether” application.
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