Government of India’s Corona Kavach COVID-19 tracking app explained in 10 simple points

It’s still early days for Corona Kavach but the way the whole thing has been designed means it could be a hard sell in India.

Corona Kavach is only available for Android devices currently. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

The government of India has taken a number of steps, including some very bold ones like putting the whole country under a ‘complete’ 21-day lockdown, to fight novel coronavirus. Even as doctors and scientists around the world burn the midnight oil to devise a potential cure, chalking out an effective and efficient strategy to keep people from being exposed to COVID-19 is the need of the hour. While it is advised to stay in at all times, until the worst is behind us, being aware of your surroundings and knowing if you’re in the ‘impact’ zone is crucial – in case you have to step out. That’s where novel coronavirus tracking apps and websites come into the picture.

It’s highly advisable that you use ‘verified’ apps and websites to track COVID-19 – cases, facts, myths, so on and so forth. While no novel coronavirus tracking app or website is one hundred percent accurate, because they’re all largely dependent on GPS and location data, at least you get some approximation, so you can probably avoid areas earmarked as infected. The government of India has taken a slightly different approach to how most COVID-19 tracking apps and websites usually function, to help you keep pace with all the “information and capture the outbreak of coronavirus” through its own dedicated app — Corona Kavach. Here is the government of India’s Corona Kavach COVID-19 tracking app explained in 10 simple points.

  1. The government of India’s Corona Kavach COVID-19 tracking app has been developed by the National e-Governance Division of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in association with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW). Corona Kavach is different from MeitY’s COVID19 Feedback app. While the former has been designed to capture the outbreak, the latter collects feedback on any treatment undergone by individuals.
  2. Corona Kavach is only available for Android devices currently. MeitY notes that the app’s “beta version is still undergoing final testing before its official release.” You can download the app from the Google Play Store from the following link.
  3. The app explicitly requires two permissions, access to your location and files on your device. You can then register using your mobile number. The app sends a one time password (OTP) to the registered mobile number. More granular details like name, age and all, are never asked which means that you can basically browse through the app ‘anonymously’ or at least that’s the sort of impression Corona Kavach would give you.
  4. The homepage, which is the page you’re greeted with every time you open the app after some brief loading, is fairly simple and bare bones. And MeitY lets you know in advance that you’re dealing with beta software – which means that it’s not final and subject to change and hopefully improvements in due course of time. Below that ‘beta’ advisory, you get a list of ‘active COVID-19 cases,’ ‘cured/discharged cases,’ ‘death cases,’ and interestingly, also the number of ‘passengers screened at airport’ — this information is only and only for India. There are further links to a FAQ and Desk page – both of them don’t work at the time of writing this story.
  5. There is an ‘options’ menu which is also very basic at this point of time. There are only two headers here. While one takes you through a breathing exercise, the second one, the questionnaire, is the option you really signed in for. The questionnaire is what really drives the whole app – in fact, this is what can make or break the app.
  6. As opposed to most apps and websites tracking the novel coronavirus outbreak that use data fed in through an algorithm (which is frequently updated), Corona Kavach gives you that ‘control’ in your hands. Corona Kavach is not AI driven, but it’s driven by actual people – you and I. It’s a community effort. The questionnaire has six questions in all (for now) and you mostly get to answer in yes or no. Questions range from “are you facing any difficulty in breathing?” to “did you meet anyone who has recently traveled to any foreign country?” to “how much is your current body temperature?” You need to answer all the six questions honestly and submit – that’s how you become part of a database. As more and more people use the app and answer the questions, the database gets updated. Location access gives the app a rough idea of where you’re located.
  7. MeitY says your location data stays offline on your device (which is possibly why the app requires access to files on your device) at all times. It is only when you’re possibly exposed that you come online.
  8. Basis of the database, Corona Kavach then tags you into categories and colour-codes you. Code green means you’re all good, orange means you should see a doctor, yellow is for quarantine, and red means you’re infected.
  9. For the unexposed, Corona Kavach offers a one-hour location tracking window to keep a check on your surroundings to let you know if and when you come into contact with someone who’s already been infected by the virus. You can choose to conduct this tacking as many times as you want.
  10. It’s still early days for Corona Kavach but the way the whole thing has been designed means it could be a hard sell in India. For it to make any kind of difference, it would require volunteers in you and I to step up and let others know of your status. It’s only then that others would be able to benefit from it. Some would be fine with sharing that information, some may not.

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