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Coronavirus: India Inc on-board to develop tech platform to tackle COVID-19

The platform will help enable social distancing after the lockdown ends and alert people if they have been exposed to virus

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | April 5, 2020 | Updated 13:37 IST
Anand Mahindra, N Chandrasekaran others to guide govt in tracking coronavirus patients
Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran (L) and Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra.

The government is planning to form a panel comprising industry leaders such as Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra and Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran which will develop a technology platform to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. The platform will help enable social distancing after the lockdown ends and alert people if they have been exposed to the virus.

The committee will also be tasked with improving the performance of Aarogya Setu app, particularly privacy issues, within three months.

Aarogya Setu app was created by the eGov Mobile Apps division of NIC. The app would be used in contact tracing of the suspect coronavirus cases, reducing time and error in manual identification.

The app has permission to use the phone's Bluetooth and once it comes within close proximity with another phone, it will identify the other device with its Bluetooth prints.

"This is a one-of-a-kind exercise to enable social distancing among people even as we allow them to move about freely after the lockdown, and to allow prompt evaluation if they have been possibly exposed to the virus," a report in The Economic Times cited a senior government official as saying.

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The panel will also examine proposals from academicians, technology and healthcare professionals and people on tackling the Covid-19 outbreak. Principal Scientific Advisor K VijayRaghavan, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Chairman RS Sharma, Electronics and Information Technology Secretary Ajay Sawhney and Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash will also be part of the committee.

The panel will study how technology is being used globally to display the places where people infected with Covid-19 or with mild symptoms of the pandemic are living. The information would be important in places that witness large congregations such as schools, offices and markets.

"The committee will take a call on various privacy issues that could be involved in tracking. For instance, in Europe, telcos are sharing anonymised data with health departments in Italy, Austria and Germany to uphold privacy of individuals while alerting others," the official told ET.

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"Once a Covid-19 patient is identified, with the person's consent, health officials could redact the location trail of the patient and broadcast it to others."

In countries such as Taiwan, a mobile phone app was being used to find the location of people quarantined at home. "Since India is such a large country, we will need to develop solutions that are workable here and also use the app and technology to inform people what are the places closest to them where they can find essential items such as masks."

By Aseem Thapliyal

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