‘Best of Indian minds’: Govt’s reply to who created Aarogya Setu

The clarification came in response to a notice served by the Central Information Commission on "evasive answers" from different ministries and departments on who created the contact tracing app

Aarogya Setu, coronavirus, COVID-19, Lockdown, privacy threat, data beach, coronavirus tracker
The Aarogya Setu app is used by lakhs of people to trace those infected with COVID-19. Photo: iStock

The Centre has clarified that the Aarogya Setu app was developed in the most transparent manner with public-private collaboration in just 21 days to prepare the nation in its fight against Covid-19.

“The Aarogya Setu app was developed in a record time of around 21 days, to respond to the exigencies of the Pandemic with Lockdown restrictions only for the objective of building a Made in India Contact Tracing App with the best of Indian minds from Industry, Academia and Government, working round the clock to build a robust, scalable and secure app,” said the government.

The clarification was in response to a notice served to the government by the Central Information Commission for what it called “evasive answers” on who created the contact tracing app that the government pushed as an essential tool in the fight against the coronavirus.

Aarogya Setu’s website says it was developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the Information Technology ministry.

The Central Information Commission, however, contended that ministries and departments had given “evasive answers” to a Right to Information (RTI) query on who created the Aarogya Setu app. The names of those associated with the app were already in the public domain.

“Denial of information by authorities cannot be accepted,” the top RTI body said in its notice, calling it “extremely preposterous”.

Activist Saurav Das had complained to the information commission that various ministries failed to provide details like how the app was proposed and approved; the companies, individuals and government departments involved; and copies of mails between private persons who helped develop the app.

Earlier, the National Informatics Centre’s response added to the confusion when it stated the “entire file related to creation of the app is not with NIC”. The IT ministry transferred the query to the National e-Governance Division, which said: “The information sought is not related to (our division).”

The government stuck to its stand that it was completely transparent about the app right from the beginning. The government press release said that the social media posts on April 2 clearly mentioned that the Aarogya Setu app was launched in public private partnership mode “to bring people of India together in its fight against the virus”. The names of all those associated with app was shared when the source code was released in the public domain, it said.

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The Arogya Setu app has been downloaded by more than 16 crore users. The app’s role had been appreciated by the World Health Organisation as well.

“There should be no doubt with regard to the Aarogya Setu app and its role in helping contain the COVID-19 pandemic in India,” said the statement.

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