India needs to follow the Singapore example for Aarogya Setu, release source code in its entirety
The government, despite Aarogya Setu’s potential in the corona-fight, has not been able to inspire trust in the app. App downloads have peaked at 15 crore, whereas the total smartphones in the country are in the range of 30 crore. The government announced a bug bounty programme earlier this year, but since then news of leaks and hacking have cast a cloud on the app. In fact, last month, it rebuffed an RTI request pertaining to the creators of the app. Now, a week after the government announced that it had released the source code of the app, some analysts have complained that the government has released only some non-operative parts of the code.
Given infections have started rising again, there is a need to ensure the app is used as widely as possible, but that requires building trust through transparency. The first step in this regard is releasing the source code of the app. By releasing the source code, not only will the government make it easier for developers to hunt for bugs but also assuage concerns regarding privacy. Singapore followed this model for its tracing app, and since then, the technology has been used by nations to conduct contact tracing in a more efficient manner. Also, there is a need to expand the scope of the app by collaborating with companies like Apple and Google that are running their own contact-tracing efforts. Unless the government builds trust and an ecosystem of collaboration, Aarogya Setu’s potential won’t get unlocked.