Aarogya Setu’s journey from a quick fix for contact tracing to ‘health app of the nation’

Aarogya Setu started off as a contact tracing app for the country but is now integrated with Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), ABHA and with additional functionalities like sharing health status through QR code, Open API, health advisories, and testing lab details, “ it has transitioned into the health app for the nation,” National Informatics Centre (NIC) Director Seema Khanna told indianexpress.com. Incidentally, the app no longer enables contact tracing via Bluetooth, a feature the Aarogya Setu team says can be “re-introduced… depending upon the health department requirements.”

During the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak in India, after getting crucial inputs from epidemiologists and experts, it was understood that contact tracing was going to be the key factor in controlling the spread of the disease. Even developed countries were struggling in carrying out contact tracing, and implementing contact tracing for a nation like India with over a billion people was going to be even tougher.

MEITY-NIC had only a few weeks to architect a solution from scratch, develop the solution, test it and roll it out to millions of users. “As a response to the national crisis, a few enterprising and brilliant volunteers came together from industry and academia and facilitated the release of the initial framework and prototype in a matter of weeks. With the help of senior experts from government, private sector and academia, the prototype was further augmented and turned into a full-fledged app,” one of the team members said.

As many as 102 members including people from the government, industry and academia leadership were all part of the project. The app is currently being offered under the umbrella of MOHFW, NHA with NIC under Meity as the IT partner. Indeed, the app required funding to operate and continues to do so.

Prior to Aarogya Setu, contact tracing was being carried out manually, mostly through human contact tracers. The team was able to leverage the mobile app to carry out contact tracing on a mass scale. In the absence of Aarogya Setu, the nation would have needed lakhs of human contact tracers, who would need to go door-to-door in every nook and corner of the…