To “complement” the Arogya Setu App, a government endorsed application that helps trace the contacts of those who may have been infected by COVID-19 , the Survey of India (SoI), the country’s apex map maker has made public a trove of maps.
This could improve geospatial data as well as help develop maps that could be customised to a variety of ‘COVID-related applications’ such as healthcare facilities, infection clusters and disaster management, according to officials associated with the project.
Also read | Coronavirus India lockdown Day 21 live updates
“The platform is initially expected to strengthen the public health delivery system of the State and Central governments and subsequently provide the necessary geospatial information support to citizens and agencies dealing with the challenges related to health, socio-economic distress, and livelihood challenges,” the Department of Science and Technology, which oversees the SoI, said in a press release. “The mobile application has been customised to collect COVID-19 specific geospatial datasets through community engagement to augment the response activities by government to the pandemic.”
Officials said that the maps wouldn’t be directly useful to the general public and was aimed at government agencies which require geospatial information. “If a response team needs location specific data on a hotspot that information can be given by Sahyog (the SoI’s mobile application),” Pankaj Mishra, Deputy Surveyor General (Technical) told The Hindu .
In his address announcing the extension of the lockdown on Tuesday , Prime Minister, Narendra Modi urged Indians to use the Arogya Setu application and “inspire others to download the app as well”. To be effective, it requires users to keep their device’s Bluetooth and location history ‘on’ as much as possible. Users will be alerted, without disclosing identity, if they are in the vicinity of someone who’s tested positive. It also helps the government trace contacts of those infected to execute quarantining.
Critics say that Arogya Setu and applications like Sahyog that link to it, could infringe privacy as there wasn’t clarity on how data would be shared between the two applications. “If location data from Arogya Setu is transferred to the other application, then it is a problem. But if it is a one way transfer from Sahyog to Arogya Setu, then it is more about privacy protection within the latter application,” said Prasanth Sugathan, Legal Director, Software Freedom Law Centre, India.
The government has said that data would be collected only for managing the pandemic.