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Data of fewer than 13K users pulled to Aarogya Setu server thus far; 697 potential hotspots identified using the app

Ajay Prakash Sawhney
Courtesy: PIB

Of the 9.8 crore (98 million) users who have downloaded Aarogya Setu, “data of fewer than 13,000 people, including COVID-19 positive person, has been pulled to the server [from their devices]”, IT Ministry Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney revealed during a press briefing yesterday. “Fewer than 13,000 users have been found COVID-19 positive. But through this information, we have found that about 1,40,000 people came in contact with them,” he revealed.

Also, location data of infected users along with data from self-assessment test from Aarogya Setu have been used to identify 697 potential hotspots in the country, Sawhney said. Information about hotspots can be generated at “pin code and post office level”, he said. The app will also be made available on Reliance’s “smart feature phones” that run on KaiOS soon, “maybe tomorrow [May 12]”, he said.

Sawhney heads the Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management, one of the 11 such groups constituted to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far, Empowered Group 9 has had eleven meetings. During the press conference, he reiterated several times that the app is “privacy first” and that all data will will be deleted, at most 60 days after being collected.

‘Aim of Aarogya Setu is to inform people, identify potential hotspots’: IT Secretary

Collected data is used to identify potential hotspots: “We combine the location data for last 14 days of people who are COVID-19 positive and collate it with self-assessment test from other people. By combining these, we can identify potential hotspots. This way, it is possible to take preventive measures to prevent a hotspot. It is not to accurately predict a hotspot, but to prevent hotspots in the first place. We are able to generate this information at pin code and post office level. Thus far, we have identified 697 such potential hotspots that we have informed the states and districts about,” Sawhney said. Note in the graphic below, it is clear that the Device IDs and phone numbers can be easily mapped to each other.

This is the data a dashboard available to authorities will contain. Source: Graphics shared during press conference.

Bluetooth contacts and ‘at-risk’ people as per the self-assessment test are called to reconfirm: “When we get data of Bluetooth contacts, data through self-risk assessment tests, we call these people to reconfirm their symptoms, what kind of services they need. This acts as a filtration system for the more important cases which are then forwarded to the health systems and government,” Sawhney said.

How users are assessed for risk in the backend of Aarogya Setu, and how at risk people are informed. Source: Graphics shared during press conference

Aarogya Setu IVRS for feature phones and landlines at 1921

“Anyone in the country can call 1921 and take a self-assessment test, just as on the app. If you give it a missed call, the platform will call you back to help you out. The data is then used similarly [as from the app],” Sawhney said. As is visible from the graphic below, self-assessment data gathered via IVRS is sent from the Aarogya Setu server to Ayushman Bharat and the latter sends back validated data. It is not clear why an public health insurance scheme that is not a health service provider needs to be get this data.

How the IVRS works. Source: Graphics shared during the press conference

Special Surveillance System to integrate health data

“The most important role is played by the Special Surveillance System that has been made by the Health Department. It is a tool set where states, district officers, districts, district surveillance officers are given every facility. We worked on strengthening this first by making apps for sample collection and sample testing. For RT-PCR test, we made one app, and for anti-body tests, we made another app. This way, the data will reach the ICMR lab portals. After it is tested in the labs, NIC has [created a system] so that the data can come to portals of all health ministries. To support this, self-risk assessment test and contact tracing data from Aarogya Setu is also included in this. Data from NDMA and data analytics from IIT Madras is combined to decide what action should be taken next,” Sawhney explained.

How data is collected and shared by the Special Surveillance System. Source: Graphics shared during press conference

Apps to mark containment zones, send SMSes in particular areas, and monitoring migrants

Sawhney also said that the Empowered Group 9 has made another app that “allows officers to mark containment zones”. At this stage, we don’t know the name of the app or how it works, but from the graphic shared during the conference (below), it might be using location data from Aarogya Setu.

Source: Graphics shared during press conference

In addition to Aarogya Setu, the Group has developed three other systems:

  • COVID-19 Saavdhaan System: “Through this, SMSes can be sent to people around a particular cell tower,” Sawhney said. These geographical areas are identified by state governments and thus far, about 16.5 crore (165 million) SMSes have been sent.
  • COVID Quarantine Alert System (CQAS): This is a system “to monitor people placed in quarantine”, Sawhney said. Email or SMS is automatically sent to the state government agency if a COVID-19 positive person, or a person placed under quarantine, moves away from their quarantined mobile tower area. Alert has thus far been send to 3.45 lakh (345,000) mobile phones. This is used in Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajashthan, Telangana, Bihar and West Bengal.
  • Mobile Subscriber Migration: This is a system to “monitor migration” where the mobile phone tower dump data from before and after the lockdown has been analysed to get details of movement of migrants. Bihar government has been “actively supported”, and similar requests have been sent by governments of Odisha, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

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