HYDERABAD: In an effort to streamline Covid-related operations in Telangana, the State’s IT Department is developing an overarching app that aims at monitoring Covid-19 patients and foreign returnees, creating awareness among police officials, among other proposed functions.
Officials have been working on the project, which attempts at bringing five to six functions under a single app, for the last 10 days. Needless to say, these operations — ranging from vigilance to preventive awareness — have been proving quite a task for the government for the past few weeks.
Firstly, as mentioned above, the app would monitor Covid-19 patients and remind them to take medication on time. Secondly, it would help track the spread of the disease based on the location data of individuals who have already been infected. In other words, it would identify potentially-infected persons, said a government official associated with the project.
Thirdly, it would help identify foreign returnees and ensure they remain under mandated isolation. “We have to be very careful while going ahead with this. We are maintaining the highest ethical standards, as this is a question of individual privacy,” said Director General of Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH) Ajit Rangnekar, who heads the team developing the app.
IT and Industries Principal Secretary Jayesh Ranjan said that the functions of the proposed app were already being implemented and verified in a small sample. For instance, foreign returnees are being asked by the State government to upload selfies so that the latter can ensure they’re under isolation.
A woman, who had returned to the country recently, received a message on her WhatsApp stating: “As per data, you have arrived in India on/after 15/02/2020. You are, therefore, requested to click the hyperlink once every day to update information, and more often if need be. (Hyperlink here)” When clicked, the link redirects the user to a web application called e-FRAP, wherein they are required to fill multiple checkboxes. The questionnaire asks whether the person has symptoms like fever, cough or shortness of breath, in addition to conditions like diabetes, asthma, BP or heart ailments.
The returnees must also upload their selfie; the form cannot be submitted unless they do so. It is important to note that the State government, here, is using Real-Time Digital Authentication of Identity (RTDAI), which is already being implemented to grant pensions.
However, speaking about the same, independent security researcher Srinivas Kodali said, “The idea that technology will solve everything without educating people is fundamentally wrong. The government has ignored the issue for a considerable time now. Without actually testing people in bulk, these tools of surveillance are of no use.”