Monday, March 20, 2023

Who created Aarogya Setu app? No one has answer


Do you know who created the Aarogya Setu app?

Well we don’t know and neither the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has any answer as well.

National Informatic Centre, then agency that designs government websites too has no information about the creator of the Aarogya Setu app. The NIC doesn’t know how it was created as well.

Yes. This revelation came when activist Saurav Das filed an Right To Information (RTI) petition to know the same.

Das complained to have approached the NIC, National E-Governance Division (NeGD) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology seeking to know about the creation of the app, which is an open-source Covid-19 contact tracing, syndromic mapping and self-assessment application. But, the query bounced off various departments for over a period of two months. He then complained to the RTI body.

Meanwhile, activist Tehseen Poonawalla on Thursday sent a letter petition to Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde requesting him to take suo-moto cognizance of the Aarogya Setu app controversy. The petition also requests CJI to direct the IT Ministry to file an affidavit in the court giving all details of the data collected through the application and further direct deletion of the data collected by the app.

In just 40 days post launch, the Aarogya Setu app was downloaded and installed more than 100 million times. So far, nearly 16 crore people have downloaded the app. Ministry of Home Affairs made the app mandatory to entre several public places like metro stations, restaurants, cinema halls etc.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) lauded the Aarogya Setu app for helping health departments to identify the Covid-19 clusters. However, there have been privacy and security concerns related to this app, which resulted in its source code made public on 26th May 2020. Several people have accused the government of breaching data security by saying that Aarogya Setu app is a sophisticated surveillance system, outsourced to private operator, with no institutional oversight.

However, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at that time refuted the allegations and asserted that the Aarogya Setu app has not been outsourced to any private operator.

With the latest controversy related to the creator of the app, the Chief Information Commission (CIC) has pulled up the NIC. The CIC issued a showcause notice to the NIC and said that the reply cannot be evasive. CIC also asked NIC to explain why its name is there on the Aarogya Setu website but doesn’t have any information regarding it.

Government stance

After the news emerged that the government had been served notice by the CIC for the issue, the Modi government gave a clarification.

As the government said, the Aarogya Setu app was developed in a record time of around 21 days, to respond to the exigencies of the pandemic with lockdown restrictions only for the objective of building a Made-in-India contact tracing app with the best of Indian minds from industry, academia and government, working round the clock to build a robust, scalable and secure app.

It also asserted that the names of those associated with the Aarogya Setu app development process were already in the public domain.

Also Read: Cyber warfare: Pakistani hackers getting Chinese help to launch cyber attacks on India

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