Aarogya Setu, drone data to play part in lockdown exit strategy

Aarogya Setu, the government’s Covid-tracker app, is helping govt in contact tracing, and also raised one's alert level if one was in the vicinity of someone who had been tested Covid-19 positive. A high-powered committee, led by Niti Aayog chief ...

NEW DELHI: A government-appointed expert panel is monitoring the data being captured by Aarogya Setu, the government’s Covid-tracker app, and its members said the findings from this would be a factor in deciding when and how the nationwide lockdown could be eased.

The panel is also looking at data obtained by six drone companies that are working alongside authorities providing services such as disinfecting contaminated areas, managing crowds and delivering medical supplies, in several states.

"We are impressed with the number of downloads the Aarogya Setu app has had. Many states have extensively used drones. Geo fencing efforts have also given us data,” a member of the panel said. “The population can be divided into various categories based on the data … The process of assessment can be done by professionals, but it can always be centralised and if there are violations, we can always monitor. On the whole, technology is going to be an important part of the process to decide the lockdown easing strategy."

The high-powered committee, led by Niti Aayog chief executive Amitabh Kant and comprising officials including from the ministries of external affairs, home, telecom and IT, in the last few meeting has also mulled over recommendations to increase in the use of standardised technology tools at times of social distancing to monitor pandemic and to motivate people on ways to stay safe. It has recommended extended and expanded use of AarogyaSetu even after the lockdown to monitor and control the spread of diseases.

While in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka drones are helping in delivering medicines and other vital supplies, reducing the need for human contact, in Delhi’s Nizamuddin West, a fleet of drones helped the police the last few weeks to see live video feeds from the areas surrounding the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz, which was one of the hotspots for the spread of the infection. The drones, fitted with HD cameras and loudspeakers, were used to disinfect the basti and monitor movements there.

States such as Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab had come up with their own apps to spread awareness.

Kamal Kishore, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority and a member of the expert panel, said technology was an important focus of the committee's meetings, and that the panel had also looked into the progress made by software companies on how artificial intelligence-driven platforms and machine learning could help in optimal use of resources.

He said the Aarogya Setu app helped in contact tracing, and also raised one's alert level if one was in the vicinity of someone who had been tested Covid-19 positive. "It has been developed with a lot of consultation with stakeholders, and after looking into what other countries have done. It also acts as a medium to send out advisories, apart from giving you the ability to undertake self-assessment. In India, with a diverse population, we need some level of standardisation with regards to basic do’s and don’ts," he said.

"Many of the social-distancing measures have to be carried into the future beyond the lockdown. We are seeing that in other countries. We have to carefully adopt such social-distancing measure for different contexts," Kishore added.

The committee has held detailed deliberations with more than 40 prominent civil society bodies and NGOs, apart from writing to over 10,000 such bodies registered with the Niti Aayog.




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