Govt’s ‘own goal’ on Aarogya Setu app will erode public’s faith

By: |
October 30, 2020 6:00 AM

Govt’s reluctance to say who developed Aarogya Setu smacks of a tendency to be evasive, will hurt contact-tracing

In response, the MeITY has released a statement claiming that the app was developed by the NIC “in collaboration with volunteers from Industry and Academia.”In response, the MeITY has released a statement claiming that the app was developed by the NIC “in collaboration with volunteers from Industry and Academia.”

Against a backdrop of persisting concerns about privacy plaguing the contact-tracing app, Aarogya Setu, the government claiming that it had no information on who developed it smacks of the opaqueness that breeds mistrust over government functioning. Replying to a RTI query, the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the MeITY had initially claimed that they had no information on who developed the app. The reply irked the Central Information Commission (CIC), which asked the NIC to explain how it was claiming that it had no idea when the Aarogya Setu website claimed that it was designed, developed and hosted by the NIC. The CIC issued a notice saying that this was “prima facie obstruction of information”, terming the claims of the government on lacking the requested information “preposterous”.

In response, the MeITY has released a statement claiming that the app was developed by the NIC “in collaboration with volunteers from Industry and Academia.” The statement also clarifies that the names of those associated with the development and management of the app were disclosed when the code for the app was released in the open/public domain and provides a link to a list of the names. It is rather concerning that the government should have claimed that it didn’t have the information, while later asserting that it had shared the information. The evasive nature of the government’s initial reply and the subsequent backtracking erodes the public’s faith in the government’s statements on other matters as well. It will hurt contact-tracing, too; Aarogya Setu downloads that had plateaued over privacy concerns may slow further. It could have been handy in vaccine roll-out and follow-up, apart from studying efficacy; the government’s lack of transparency puts that in jeopardy.

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