Government Developing a COVID-19 Contact Tracing Solution for Feature Phones: IT Minister R S Prasad

Government Developing a COVID-19 Contact Tracing Solution for Feature Phones: IT Minister R S Prasad

The federal government has recently been aggressively pushing its indigenously developed contact tracing app referred to as Aarogya Setu to assist customers determine if they’re on the threat of an infection. Nevertheless, it gave the impression to be a superficial effort, because it unnoticed an enormous chunk of the inhabitants that also makes use of a characteristic cellphone and thus, cannot obtain the app. The federal government is now trying to resolve that piece of riddle by creating a contact tracing answer that works for characteristic telephones.

Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad not too long ago talked about in a tweet that similar to Aaraogya Setu, “an analogous answer for characteristic telephones is being developed and might be launched very quickly.” However up to now, particulars in regards to the challenge have been scarce. Additionally, it’s not identified how contact tracing might be applied on characteristic telephones, since putting in a devoted app on them is subsequent to not possible. This leaves mobile location monitoring as the one viable methodology to implement contact tracing at floor stage, however its effectivity stays a giant query for causes a couple of.

As per IDC Analysis Director Navkendar Singh, the variety of characteristic cellphone customers in India is at present increased than the quantity of people that personal a smartphone. Singh identified that in comparison with 450 million smartphone customers in India, there are roughly 550 million individuals who nonetheless run a characteristic cellphone. Leaving that half a billion robust userbase out of its COVID-19 tackling efforts is nothing however a recipe for catastrophe.

“The vast majority of characteristic telephones will not be information enabled, and most haven’t any Bluetooth or GPS functionality,” Singh was quoted as saying by The Register. “Given the constraints of characteristic cellphone working methods, getting the contact tracing app put in on primary telephones is a giant problem,” he added.

It is because contact tracing methods depend on Bluetooth to share randomised keys between telephones when two persons are shut, after which use positioning information to determine if a person has been involved with an contaminated particular person. Google and Apple’s jointly-developed publicity notification system works on this very formulation.

However a majority of characteristic telephones miss out on Bluetooth and/or GPS, which makes it a problem in itself to construct a contact tracing answer for characteristic telephones. The one attainable strategy to implement it now boils right down to network-based monitoring by collaborating with telecom operators. However up to now, no main analysis has established mobile network-based contact tracing as a viable answer.

Giving his two cents on an answer that seems to be “problematic” from the get-go, chief of analysis at CCS Perception, Ben Wooden advised The Register that characteristic telephones lack GPS assist, and even when they do, including a devoted app to characteristic telephones is nearly not possible.

“This implies the one possibility is to do location monitoring at a community stage and on 2G and 3G, however the granularity of the placement is just not normally significantly correct,” he added. A couple of Indian states have reportedly employed network-level tracing, however we’re but to return throughout any success story.

Technical hurdles galore

One other main impediment is mobile connectivity itself, as a result of the community of Indian telecom operators is just not uniformly out there in all areas, particularly rural areas, which is the place a majority of characteristic cellphone customers are concentrated. And even when the federal government does give you an app-based contact tracing answer for characteristic telephones, getting it put in and operating on them is an uphill battle itself. That is primarily as a result of for smartphones, there are solely two platforms to work on – Android and iOS.

Nevertheless, OS fragmentation within the case of characteristic telephones is way more complicated. So yeah, platform compatibility might be an enormous code to crack. After that, educating individuals on use it could be an arduous process in itself, contemplating the linguistic range and the time it could take to succeed in characteristic cellphone customers in all distant pockets of the nation.

Contact tracing at its coronary heart would require a central database of all individuals who have examined optimistic in order that those that’ve been involved with an contaminated particular person may be knowledgeable they usually can accordingly take measures comparable to self-quarantine and get medical help in time. However doing so may require sharing that database with telecom operators in a single kind or the opposite, which is simply one other privacy-related controversy bomb ready to blow up.

Until, the federal government comes up with a complicated safety system that can maintain all information in an encrypted kind and protected from menace actors. However constructing such a system is less complicated stated than achieved, significantly in case of characteristic telephones. That is particularly related given the privateness issues surrounding the federal government’s Aarogya Setu app for contact tracing.

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