Even as the Covid-19 cases are far from coming down in India, the contact-tracing app is in the throes of another row, this time over who developed it.
Intriguingly, the apps' website claims that it was developed by National Informatics Centre and the Information Technology Ministry. But both denied knowledge of who created it in response to an RTI (Right to Information) query.
The Central Information Commission, the apex appellate authority under the RTI Act, 2005, pulled up the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, National E-Governance Division (NEGD) and National Informatics Centre for being 'evasive' in their reply to the RTI query seeking information on the due process regarding the creation of the app.
Denial of information by authorities cannot be accepted, the CIC said and added it is "extremely preposterous".
The RTI query also sought information related to the app's development and communications received from all contributors/advisers for the app.
Finally, a response from the government
Clarification issued on Aarogya Setu App. Aarogya Setu App is a product of Government of India built in collaboration with the best of the minds of Industry & Academia. Worlds largest contact tracing App, appreciated by WHO also. #SetuMeraBodyguard #IndiaFightsCorona pic.twitter.com/mbhQ4pTuZwOctober 28, 2020
The government being wishy-washy in its response and not throwing light on who developed the app naturally exploded into a major controversy, especially on the social media platforms.
As the issue threatened to become a major embarrassment for the government, it came up with a two-page clarification that said the Aarogya Setu app was developed by it in collaboration with private enterprises,
"The Aarogya Setu app was developed in a record time of around 21 days, to respond to the exigencies of the Pandemic with Lockdown restrictions only for the objective of building a Made in India Contact Tracing App with the best of Indian minds from Industry, Academia and Government, working round the clock to build a robust, scalable and secure app," said the government.
It also said that it was announced through press releases and social media posts on April 2 that the Aarogya Setu app was launched in public private partnership mode "to bring people of India together in its fight against the virus". The names of all those associated with app was shared when the source code was released in the public domain, the government added.
The Aarogya Setu has been downloaded by more than 16.23 crore users and it has been strengthening India’s fight against Covid-19, it said.
The Government clarification said the World Health Organization praised the app for helping the state health departments identify Covid-19 clusters.