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 is focused on understanding regulatory frameworks for emerging technologies in India.She is interested in studying the development of emerging technologies and the complex entanglements between technology and society. Her M.Phil. research is centered on human-machine interactions in the context of social robotics and engages with questions of design and agency in the building of affective relationalities between humans and social robots. She has an M.A and M.Phil. in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics and a B.A (H) in Sociology from Miranda House, New Delhi.

Harsh Ghildiyal

Harsh Ghildiyal is a Research Associate at Tandem Research. He currently works on research across the technology and society vertical. Harsh is interested in understanding the social implications of technology, consequent regulatory responses, and working towards an equitable technological future. Before joining Tandem Research, he was a Teach for India fellow. He has a B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) degree from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam.

Joanne D'Cunha

Joanne D'Cunha is a law graduate from Symbiosis Law School with a Masters in Information Technology and Intellectual Property Rights from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. She has worked on legal and policy aspects of free speech, surveillance, data protection, net neutrality, and intermediary liability. She currently is a Research Associate at Tandem working in the AI and Society program.

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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