COVID-19 Tech Tools for Public Health

A rapid review of the different tech tools being deployed to support the public health response to the COVID-19 crisis in India

As public health infrastructures globally struggle to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is reasonable that governments are turning to technological tools to bolster their Covid-19 response. In India, as well, there has been a strong impetus for technology adoption in response to the pandemic.

However, in India, adoption has outpaced governance - with data-driven technologies continuing to operate largely in a legal and policy vacuum. For example, Aarogya Setu, the government’s Covid-19 contact tracing app, has been criticized by civil society actors for violating privacy, possible misuse of data, and failing to adhere to existing legal frameworks. However, Aarogya Setu is only one application amongst many being developed and deployed by state and private actors. Consequently, other applications have not received the same amount of public scrutiny and attention.

In May 2020, Tandem Research began tracking the adoption of technological tools to manage public health concerns related to Covid-19 in India. While in recent times, researchers and other civil society organisations have reviewed several of the applications and tools rolled out by respective state governments in India, our tracker also includes private sector players. The broader goal of this report is to identify the challenges and gaps in the provision of responsible digital health services in India during the pandemic.

The rapid review of tech tools for Covid-19 accompanying this report can be accessed at: www.techtoolsforCovid19.in

  • Currently, there are at least 85 different technological tools being used to support the public health response to Covid-19 in India.
  • Of the 85 tools we have identified, at least 64 have been issued by the government of India, across different states and district administrations.
  • There are 21 private sector backed tools, which are currently at different stages of development and deployment.
  • Amongst the 64 government backed applications, 44 have been developed in partnership with private developers and tech companies, and only 32 have been developed in partnership with the IT departments and other government agencies.
  • Amongst that tools that are mobile-phone based, only 2 have accounted for feature phones and lack of digital literacy.

Initiative

AI & Society

Authors

Angelina Chamuah

Angelina Chamuah is a Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her current work examines the social and ethical implications of AI and other emerging technologies in India. She has been studying the impact of AI in India across different sectors including agriculture, healthcare, policing, and finance. Key to her research are questions of values and interests that drive socio-technological imaginaries of AI and the future of AI governance in India. In addition to AI, her research interests include the role of Big Tech companies in India, politics of data and human-machine interaction. She holds an M.Phil in Sociology and a Masters in Sociology from the Delhi School of Economics, DU.

Harsh Ghildiyal

Harsh Ghildiyal is a Research Associate at Tandem Research working on the AI & Society initiative. His current work is focused on issues of data, artificial intelligence, privacy, and platform governance. He is interested in understanding the social implications of technologies and the legal and regulatory responses to them, and working towards an equitable technological future. He has a degree in humanities and law from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam.

Joanne D'Cunha

Joanne D'Cunha is a research associate with the AI and Society Initiative at Tandem. Her work focuses on data governance, artificial intelligence, and related legal and policy challenges. She's interested in investigating the implications of data and emerging technologies, and its interaction with law and society. She has a Masters of Law in Information Technology from the University of Sussex, and a Bachelors of Arts and Law from Symbiosis Law School.

Aishwarya Viswanathan

Aishwarya Viswanathan is a Research Fellow at the Technology, Art and Society program, jointly led by Tandem Research and Quicksand Design Studio. In her research, she is currently exploring the aesthetics and spectatorship of violent user-generated media on social media platforms, and its role in transforming human interaction and engagement. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts and a Master’s degree in Aesthetics and Visual Cultures.

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