Government likely to launch Covid path-tracing app

Bengaluru: Coming soon — a Covid tracker app from the government in English and all major Indian languages. The government is likely to launch a smartphone application to help users check if they crossed paths with patients who tested positive for coronavirus.

The contours of the app, government officials told ET, is currently being examined by a committee, after separate efforts by the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) and the Niti Aayog, the government's policy think-tank. These officials spoke off record.

Both apps – the one developed by MeitY, and the other, by the Niti Aayog, officials said, were being beta-tested and examined in detail at a Wednesday meeting of the committee. “It was ultimately decided that both teams should take the best of both apps,” a MeitY official told ET on condition of anonymity. This app, the official added, is likely to be launched in “one or two days”. It is likely to be rolled out in all Indian languages.

Over the last few days, MeitY had been testing an Android-based app called ‘Corona Kavach’, which would help users check if they crossed paths with patients who tested positive for coronavirus. ET has reviewed a version of the app, currently available as an Android application package, or APK.



The app, Meity officials added, will use the phone number of the user, along with the location data of the smartphone, and match his/her movements with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) data on the backend. The ICMR data already has the movements of patients who have tested positive for the virus. For nearby tracking, Kavach uses Bluetooth technology, according to the official, which is similar to the open-source, TraceTogether app developed by the Singapore government.


Feedback from Beta Testers
The Niti Aayog, on its part, has also been undertaking similar efforts.

In a widely circulated WhatsApp forward among technology professionals, the think-tank sought “support and feedback” from beta testers.

The message, which ET has accessed said, “Government of India has been working on effectively tracking the spread of COVID-19 through technology. To achieve this, we have developed a mobile application that actively traces if you have crossed paths with someone, even unknowingly, who later tests COVID-19 positive.”

This unnamed app, according to sources, was beta tested by at least 10,000 users — both on Android and iOS. ET couldn’t confirm if this iteration of the Niti Aayog app is part of the co-development effort. When contacted by ET, Niti Aayog officials said it would be too early to say what form the app will take.

The soon-to-be-launched “official” app, sources say, is likely to address some key issues around user privacy and scalability. “The biggest challenge for us is scalability. We have to ensure that it should work as effectively when millions of users are using the app,” said the MeitY official.

“It might work very well in a lockdown because your location doesn’t change. But we have to test for all scenarios, especially a post-lockdown one,” the official added.