India to roll out Covid-19 app for low cost Reliance JioPhone in bid to widen tracing

India will launch in a few days a version of its coronavirus contact finder that can work on the inexpensive phones of mobile operator Reliance Jio as it seeks to increase the reach of the system, a senior official said on Thursday. government official.

India, the world’s largest shutdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, launched the Aarogya Setu (Health Bridge) app last month – a Bluetooth and GPS-based app that alerts users who may have get in touch with people who later test positive for COVID-19.

The app, which has been downloaded more than 83 million times so far, was initially available for around 500 million smartphone users in India on Google’s Android and Apple devices, but not for about 400 million more basic phone users.

Within a week, a version of the app will be rolled out to more than 100 million JioPhone users at $ 9 – an inexpensive cell phone with Internet access and running on a mobile operating system called KaiOS, said a senior government official to Reuters.

Launched by Reliance Industries’ telecommunications unit in 2017, the phone allows users to access data and 4G mobile applications, including the famous WhatsApp messenger from Facebook Inc.

“We are pushing it … tests are underway,” said the official, who declined to be identified because the plan is not public.

India’s Department of Technology and Reliance Jio did not immediately respond to emails requesting comments.

Contact tracing applications such as Aarogya Setu are used to speed up the process of identifying, testing and isolating people exposed to the virus before passing it on to others.

While many countries around the world use similar apps, some, like Australia and Colombia, are turning to Apple and Google Alphabet technology amidst citizens’ concerns about privacy and systems. glitchy audiences.

The Indian government has also launched a toll-free number that connects landline and landline users to the Aarogya Setu platform, allowing them to self-assess for COVID-19 via an interactive voice response system.

As India eased some of its lockout restrictions, it ordered all public and private sector employees to return to work to use the app, saying business owners would be required to provide coverage to 100% among employees.

A French hacker, who calls himself Elliot Alderson on Twitter, pointed to privacy flaws in India’s app, but the government responded by assuring its citizens that it was safe.