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Arogya Setu and CoWin Apps, the Story of Fight Back Coordination

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India's Arogya Setu app and CoWin app have gone from voluntary to mandatory, as the corona virus has been a grim reaper reaping nearly three lakh lives as of May 23rd, 2021 and has infected about 30 million as of June 27th, 2021. Companies of all sizes are arranging and hosting vaccination facilities to safeguard their workforce and their respective families.

To curb the spread and prepare for COVID-19's third wave, the central government had stated that citizens can sign up for vaccinations on either the CoWin platform or Arogya Setu from April 28th, 2021.

How Arogya Setu has Helped Curb the Spread
One of the key missions of Arogya Setu is to help track down corona virus lurking in and around areas of the user’s location. Taking a self-assessment test on the app helps identify possible hotspots in fast manner when the symptoms the user describes matches the location. This then calls for appropriate actions to curb the spread of the virus. Additionally, the app also provides on a list of ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) certified labs with COVID-19 testing facilities.

Likewise, the app has helped alert authorities of over 650 hotspots across India and has helped notify about 300 emerging hotspots.

For that matter, Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog once said that “in Maharashtra, the app detected over 60 hotspots across 18 districts. Between April 13 and April 20, the engine forecasted around 130 hotspots at the sub-post office level across the country. After being notified by Aarogya Setu, the Union Health Ministry certified these projected hotspots to be "actual hotspots" 3 to 17 days later. In this approach, the engine assisted the government in determining "who to test" and "where to test more", to combat the virus.

"Now is the time to think about the future and develop our public health system. In the future, we must be prepared for such a pandemic. Our main goal is to provide equal access to people living in rural places. It is crucial to include health as a percentage of GDP, and 2.5 percent of healthcare expenditures should be considered", explained Dr. Randeep Guleria, chairman, CII Public Health Council and Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)

New Feature that Displays Vaccination Status
Aarogya Setu has added a new function that shows the vaccination status of users who have registered on the platform. For fully vaccinated users (inoculated with both doses), the app will display a blue shield and blue ticks, whereas for partially vaccinated users, the app will display various colours.

After 14 days, blue ticks will appear on a user who has received the second dose. Before giving the desired shield and ticks, the CoWIN digital platform will be used to verify the vaccination status. Those who received a single dosage will see a single blue border on their home screen with their vaccination status and a single tick on the Aarogya Setu logo.

CoWin Wins Interest Over 50 Countries
The CoWIN platform has piqued the interest of over 50 countries across Central Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and India is willing to offer the open-source software for free.

CoWIN is a citizen-centric platform that serves as a single source of truth all the way down to the district level, noted R S Sharma during his speech at the Confederation of Indian Industry's annual flagship Public Health Summit 2021.

Sharma explained that the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM) is based on the idea that many services can be delivered online. The NDHM will store a variety of databases, with the ability for patients to access their records.

Vaccination Check
One registered user can enrol up to four persons for vaccination on the CoWIN platform. People can use this to register their relatives, friends, and others who do not have access to a mobile phone or are unable to register or reserve slots on CoWIN on their own.

The users' vaccination status on Aarogya Setu will be updated by checking the vaccination status through the CoWIN-registered cellphone number.

Users can verify their vaccination status, and they will be required to input their CoWIN-registered mobile number.

An OTP will be issued to the CoWIN registered mobile number upon entry. The user validating his/her vaccination status will need to input this OTP, after which he will be able to choose his/ her profile from the list of people associated with the CoWIN registered number.

The vaccination status will be checked from the CoWIN backend and updated on the Aarogya Setu app after selecting the correct profile.

"Now is the time to think about the future and develop our public health system. In the future, we must be prepared for such a pandemic. Our main goal is to provide equal access to people living in rural places. It is crucial to include health as a percentage of GDP, and 2.5 percent of healthcare expenditures should be considered", explained Dr. Randeep Guleria, chairman, CII Public Health Council and Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

"Data and technology should drive the public health system. In rural India, there is a demand for telehealth and telediagnostics, and industry has a critical role to play. There is also a need to strengthen public-private partnerships, and many models can be investigated", he remarked.

User Stats Then vs Now
Since debut, Arogya Setu recorded over 50 million downloads in 2020 and made a debut as the world’s most downloaded app. But tuning in to 2021, there are not many takers for the app. Low registrations were noted in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and West Bengal, among other states. Except for the Union Territories of Delhi and Chandigarh, most states have download rates around 10-15percent of their population.

Down South Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu had respective figures of 13.7 percent, 12.2, 14 percent, and 6.5 percent during March 2021. CoWin on the other hand has grown a reach of over 300 million registrations. This comes after India’s toughest battle against the virus’ second wave that put a huge part of the population at stake.

Concerns of Safety Over Personal Information on Arogya Setu
The app, however, has had its share of ill regard from people who question the privacy of their personal details. Since it saves location data and requires ongoing Bluetooth connection, according to experts, making it invasive in terms of security and privacy.

Former Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna said the push to get people to use the app was utterly illegal in an interview with The Indian Express newspaper.

"What law are you enforcing it under? So far, there is no legal backing for it”, he told the newspaper.

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