Tracking COVID-19: Aarogya Setu app may not be effective, yet

More app signups and increased testing is needed

aarogya-setu When two people who have installed the app come in close proximity, the app shares the data between the apps in the two phones with each other

While extending the lockdown in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also urged citizens to download the Aarogya Setu app. The app was the Indian government’s initiative to help citizens track how safe they are and if they are in close proximity to anyone who tested positive. While the app is a good initiative, it does have its limitations. But before getting into the limitations, here is a quick look at what the app is and what it does.

App fineprint

The Aarogya Setu app is available on both Android and iOS stores. It has already been downloaded over 50 million times on the Play Store and has a rating of 4.7. The setup is fairly straightforward with a few questions asking the user whether they want to be informed if they have crossed paths with someone who has tested COVID-19 positive. The app uses Bluetooth and GPS tracking to provide information. The app also requires you to keep your Bluetooth and Location sharing on at all times. It also prompts you to ask friends and family to install the app. The app takes basic information from you such as your phone number, name, gender, age, profession, countries visited in the last 30 days and whether you would like to volunteer in the time of need. It also makes you take a self-assessment test to assess whether you are at risk. The app also contains recommendations on how to stay safe and also gives you a timely update of all COVID-19 cases state-wise. It also lets you donate to the PMCARES fund using UPI. 

How it tracks

The app uses bluetooth and location data to pinpoint movements. When two people who have installed the app come in close proximity, the app shares the data between the apps in the two phones with each other. If one of the app users is at risk, it will immediately prompt the other user, thus creating awareness.


While the app is a great initiative to track cases, it is also a good awareness app for citizens as it helps them stay safe. But, the app’s greatest limitation lies in the number of downloads. For the app to work properly, it is essential that more people download the app. One of the greatest strengths of the app - ability to share information with other phones - is also its Achilles’ Heel, since people need to download the app. The second limitation is that the number of tests in India need to improve significantly. At present India is averaging little over 100 tests per million population. That number needs to grow significantly for the app to garner more data. With India approving more rapid testing kits, this number should hopefully go up. But all the same, without more signups and tests, the app would not live up to the potential it deserves.