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Aarogya Setu: Bridging Health & Well-being as India Battles Coronavirus

Representative Image.  (Reuters)

Representative Image. (Reuters)

Aarogya Setu will be instrumental in keeping the users informed about their health status and of those around them by mapping the trajectories of the spread of the virus.

Digital technologies have become integral to all sectors of the economy by promoting connectivity and increasing efficiency of service delivery. Healthcare solutions served through mobile apps have brought access and equity to the farthest corners of the country in a seamless manner. Digi-health has been one of the key elements in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been integral to the three pillars of testing, tracing and containment.

Giving a push to a data-driven, evidence-based approach in tracking and tackling the spread of the pandemic, Aarogya Setu aims to be a ‘bridge of health’ in containing the spread of the disease through contact tracing.

As the world battles the catastrophe, Aarogya Setu will be instrumental in keeping the users informed about their health status and of those around them by mapping the trajectories of the spread of the virus. It can potentially be utilised as a tool for designating containment zones and identifying hotspots. And more importantly, it will inform the policymakers about the unwinding strategies of the current lockdown.

Use cases for Residents: Aarogya Setu is a tool for citizen empowerment as it provides an opportunity to do self-assessment and actively reach out to health system with one’s own status of well-being. Aarogya Setu utilises bluetooth wireless transmission to communicate with devices that come in proximity to each other. Such information lets users know their chances of contacting the virus from a positive case that might have been in close vicinity to their location. Through such contact tracing, the app users can be alerted about the measures to be taken for preservation of their health and wellness.

This may include information on sample collection and testing centers, COVID-designated hospitals, isolation protocols and quarantine arrangements. This can ensure community-level awareness, early detection, distress situation alert and necessary restrictions on stray movements.

Aarogya Setu will help assuage fears and remove anxiety that is natural in such difficult times through authentic information and targeted messaging in the form of notifications. The cloud of confusion that looms through the deluge of often unwanted and mostly untested information can be cleared by establishing a direct contact with citizens. With reliable communication and relevant content, it provides a platform to the government to disseminate information and content in local languages for consumption by citizens. For example, the immunity measures that are prepared by the Ministry of Ayurveda can be propagated through the app. Thus, it is an important link to provide care and counselling to the sick and the distressed.

The app enables a whole-of-system approach to respond to the situation through triangulation of information, action and feedback generation. The app user can be more secure in the understanding of their area and can be alerted about the precinct situation on two levels — first, on an individual level about the chances of having come in close contact with a COVID-positive case; and second, on a spatial level about the status of infection in the surroundings. As we look at a gradual rollback of the lockdown, this information will be highly crucial in ensuring a safe, secure and healthy way of travel and activity.

Use cases for Government: The possible use-cases for Aarogya Setu include telemedicine, chatbots, IVRS, e-pass, hotspot management, etc. The app can be used to carry out campaigns on the prevention and containment measures such as social distancing, safety and hygiene management, use of homemade masks, FAQs on self-quarantine among others. Aarogya Setu can further be used as a decision-support tool to organize and prioritise relief measures.

The app can provide citizens information about the status and schedule of distribution of essential commodities and other benefits as part of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana. All facilities and services that are integral for sustenance and mitigation such as food supply depots, mobile medical camps, quarantine centers and isolation wards can be shared through the app. It can help the government and private sector alike to organise logistics for all kind of goods movement. It can also act as a single comprehensive policy tracker platform by providing information on all important policy decisions being taken by the government to provide relief to different sections of the society and sectors of the economy.

The data collected on Aarogya Setu can help in phasing out the lockdown and reinstating the economy gradually. It can be used to generate heat maps and mobility patterns that can be fed to develop epidemiological modelling and intervention mapping. This enables in planning and enactment of spatio-temporal containment policies. The app allows for qualified decision-making to provide relaxations from lockdown while enforcing tighter controls in containment zones. The risk assessment also provides targeted response and relief mechanisms to become operational. The greatest advantage of this is to not only ensure a steady and healthy recovery but also safeguard against a second-wave of virus attack.

Crisis communication is a key during disruptions, and it is important that the government speaks in one voice. The app’s data collection framework ensures the sanctity of data being tracked and gives out accurate information to the public. This curbs mala fide information networks, dispels fear-mongering and helps in managing public sentiments effectively. Aarogya Setu provides for speed and quality in collection of data at the national level and then transmission of information at the local level to inform the field level functionaries and assist in their functioning.

While the app provides a platform for self-compliance, reporting and networked monitoring as well as services like information on testing centers, telemedicine, chatbots, and movement passes, its efficacy is user-driven and data-induced. Higher reporting on the app will make it stronger in detecting affected cases and creating a line of informed citizenry. Thus, it is imperative this becomes the only app for contact tracing and data transmission without any duplicity of efforts at another level. We, the citizens, have to whole-heartedly contribute to the national effort in overcoming the crisis by adopting Aarogya Setu and making it a bridge to a healthy future.

Richa Rashmi is Young Professional, NITI Aayog. Views expressed are personal.
first published:April 20, 2020, 15:01 IST