The Government of India may be looking to start proceedings with “smart” feature phones, like the Reliance JioPhone.
Spurred by the need of the hour and seemingly popular demand, the Government of India is working to bring its Aarogya Setu COVID-19 tracking app to feature phones. Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad, announced on Tuesday that a “similar” solution for feature phones was in development and will be launched “very soon.” Aarogya Setu is compatible with all Android and iOS devices but according to some estimates, India has over 400 million feature phone users — those who still don’t have access to a certain Aarogya Setu.
Every state highly appreciated the #AarogyaSetu app and shared their thoughts on it.
I have assured them that a similar solution for feature phones is being developed and will be launched very soon. pic.twitter.com/Z6VQOPfmcx
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) April 28, 2020
Bringing an Aarogya Setu-like solution to feature phones will be easier said than done though. The Government of India may be looking to start proceedings with “smart” feature phones, like the Reliance JioPhone, PTI reports. A JioPhone, unlike regular feature phones, runs 4G and can access the Internet. You can also download and install apps on a JioPhone, something that you can’t do on an average feature phone. This is because unlike most feature phones, a JioPhone runs KaiOS software that’s a custom fork of Firefox OS — an open source operating system based on Linux, the same technology that drives Android. Google apps and services are available on the JioPhone, so are WhatsApp and Facebook.
The JioPhone has sparked the rise of a number of other such smart feature phones in the Indian market, including some from well-known brands like Nokia. Which means, there is a “sizable” market to tap, and chances are, it would also be far more easier for developers to port the Aarogya Setu app for these phones, rather than conventional feature phones. The Government of India isn’t sharing any further details just yet, technical or otherwise, including a tentative timeline of launch, so we’ll just have to wait and watch out on that one.
What it has been sharing though is that Aarogya Setu is seemingly off to a great start in India. The Aarogya Setu app has crossed the 7.5 Crore user mark as of April 24. The app was launched for Android and iOS devices on April 2 and serves as the Government of India’s first truly comprehensive COVID-19 tracking app aimed to connect health services with the people to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Aarogya Setu uses Bluetooth and GPS to notify users when they might possibly be at a risk of exposure to COVID-19. The most important aspect of Aarogya Setu is that it has access to the Government of India’s database of known cases. Aarogya Setu also offers a host of other features including do’s and don’ts and safety measures, plus it can also help direct you to your nearest COVID-19 help center should you be exposed.
With a surge in installs, also come privacy concerns. New Delhi-based Software Freedom Law Centre has alleged that the app collects sensitive user data such as a user’s gender and travel history, The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) has meanwhile alleged that Aarogya Setu lacks transparency.