Aarogya Setu Yet Another Mismanaged Opportunity

Aditya Kshirsagar
8 min readApr 21, 2021

Did the app bridge the needs of 130 crore M.I.T.R.O.N. of Narendra Modi? Turns out — no, it did not. An initiative that was fraught with citizenry mistrust, unfounded accusations of surveillance, and poor execution has been rated 1-star consistently since April 2021. I have gathered an assortment of reviews for your reading pleasure below. Before we get to the meaty part, let’s look at Aarogya Setu’s (AS’s) failures in detail.

Modi is no stranger to app development. In 2016, post demonetisation NaMo app was used to collect personally identifiable user data without providing prerequisite information and misuse of the office of Prime Minister. Since writing of the aforementioned article the app and its features have moved to gov.in website. The need and the expenditure for it remains questionable.

Aarogya Setu and why it was bound to fail

This time last year (April 2020), contact tracing was the rage. Pioneering implementation by economies like South Korea and Singapore to flatten the curve was appreciated but immediately privacy concerns were raised. Not in India though, the incumbent PM of India and Union cabinet are a staunchly opposed to civil society concerns or feedback of any manner. ‘Thy will be done’, is the administrative & mainstream media response to GoI’s plans.

Singapore addressed a lot of them here. In India, it was a different story. With authority centralized, all decisions were taken by the health secretary and what I am assuming Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). AS was released as a bodyguard that will keep you safe. A kavach (a protective shield) that will not let any harm befall on its users. GoI chose Vimal Kesari (a tobacco-based mouth freshener) brand ambassador — Ajay Devgn — for the PSA seen below.

For the non-Hindi speakers, the two gentleman seen in the ad with excellent dental hygiene are stating the following:

  1. The app will be 130 crore people’s bodyguard
  2. It will help you and your family to be safe by contact tracing
  3. Download the app now cause it is voluntarily mandatory

Hope that explanation helped. Bolo Zubaan Kesari (May our lips be coloured saffron).

Bold claims by questionable ambassadors aside, a recent Google Play Store review gives us a glimpse at the utter failure of the app.

No use with this app. No proper tracing and people are not aware of how to use this app. For instance, today (18Mar2021)., I’m in my office where AS captured 146 people under my proximity. In which, status shows 1 as moderate risk and rest 145 are not known. Then what is the use of this app!?? I started using it from the day of release and upon long observation, I’m bringing this over here. The questionnaire is just outdated. Just update or scrap it out. The second wave is very serious. Beware.

So what went wrong?

TLDR version:

When the pandemic began, like Aadhar, AS was made voluntarily mandatory to enter public places. Yet again, people had no idea why they were doing what they were doing. It was just another app that the PM told public to download. They did download it, and like most things started by Modi, it got a great start due to marketing spend but failed due to lack of product planning & management.

Why the Indian initiative fell short:

  • Mandatory usage: The Modi-led regime with the ‘power of text box’ prior to the pandemic had forced Indians unique identification program dubbed Aadhar (support) to get state benefits*. Aarogya setu was yet another application built on Aadhar + mobile number stack to provide location of Covid-19 positive patients around you. In theory since mobile number is associated to Aadhar and Aadhar to your medical report, knowing who was positive was to be a peach. But, Indians are e-smart. While some used alternate numbers others just used screenshots to fake the system.

Recommendation: Stop treating Indian citizens like your children whom you can have a command over. Punitive behavior is dubbed normal by most in India but it is stupid to assume that it is. Unlike our fathers and grandfathers, we are well-aware of most things, treat us adults and take us into confidence. Help build a fraternity based on scientific enquiry rather than

  • Implementation of the app: The Government made it compulsory for anyone using public facilities to download the app. If someone refused to use the app then they had to have a negative Covid-19 test with a self-declaration. Others just faked the app’s screenshot. The point being the contact tracing effort was bound to be a failure from day 1. People did it not our of concern but compulsion, did not work for 75-years of Indian independence and won’t work in the future.

Recommendation: District-wise implementation of remedy was needed. A bunch of us did put out a PSA and emailed it most district administrators to no avail. Not too late, read it again here.

  • Contact tracing cannot be automated, it requires humans. Just like every Modi project, this too was left wayside after the marketing blitz was over. I will conclude this piece by linking to this article that encapsulates the effort Singapore undertook with their app.

India is starting to feel like a failed state and to a jovial optimist a Banana Republic. Where we go from here is a mystery but hope that the blessings of 100,000 crore gods is retained on proto-fascist state for there is no other hope remaining. Before you go, here are chosen reviews of AS from Google Play Store.

No seriously, God help India.

An assortment of reviews that should be investigated.

No use with this app. No proper tracing and people are not aware of how to use this app. For instance, today(18Mar2021)., I’m in my office where AS captured 146 people under my proximity. In which, status shows 1 as moderate risk and rest 145 are not known. Then what is the use of this app!?? I started using it from the day of release and upon long observation, I’m bringing this over here. The questionnaire is just outdated. Just update or scrap it out. The second wave is very serious.Beware.

I don’t find it usefull. In recent contact, it lost number of recent contact with moderate risk or low risk. Instead it should raise some alarm when we came near came moderate risk people so that we can take more precalculation. And if 14 days is completed not changed from moderate risk to low risk or safe mode. Please solve this,…….

I am a senior citizen. And when I checked to book appointment for vaccination. The app is not taking me initially it was showing that OTP has been sent to the Mobile number. But not received OTP. Later It’s continuously showing error and cannot login using my mobile number. Cleared the Cache. Uninstalled the app and later again installed. But the error is same.

Hi, App was not working so i reinstlled it . However, i am not able to log in with my same mobile number. It is continuously showing log in error. Please help. I have shared screen as advised. I have shared my screen shot with the mentioned mail id. Still same problem.

Me and my wife are covid positive. The helpline number 1075 in the app is not valid. Even in Google there are few numbers, which are not valid. No where there is a email id, and no contact number for complaints as well. Now in case of emergency In which number I need we need to call

My phone has to be reformatted and hence had to download all my apps again. However, after downloading this app, I am unable to log in. I keep getting an error message. This has now become a big problem since my office building doesn’t allow anyone in without the app. They don’t even have a help icon to reach out to incase of difficulties. Not sure who to contact and how.

I have installed Arogya setu app. After agreeing terms and conditions, system asks for the personal information for registration but at last , clicking submit does not bring it forward. It just stucks there. Android version is 5.0 and i have deleted and reinstalled the application multiple times but still the same issue. After feeing in all information for registration, it does not go further. Can you please suggest what to do next?

There should be a zero star for this application. Its such a waste of resources nothing else. I’ve scheduled my parent’s vaccination on 12th of april and when I arrived at vaccination center, they turned us down saying that there is no Mehta in the vaccination list. And when I tried calling the helpline no , I was shocked that not a single time my call was answered, and when someone picked it up, their network was really bad and the only word exchange happened between us was “Hello.” It sucks

Over all experience is not good. Spent 30 min to search for near by testing centre, still couldnt get accurate data. Its not friendly enough. Please include filters to access data easily.

Sent mail. Even after update today, not getting certificate. Further, 21) I give mobile number, you send OTP, I read it, I enter it, you authenticate me. Instead, can you not read OTP and auto authenticate by seeking permission? At least you can do it for one mobile, one SIM type of simple people, who are in majority. User already authenticated on start of app. Why again? Grow up and ‘Keep It Stupid Simple’ otherwise each of the 130 crore Indians wil curse you twice as they vaccinate.

Worst App. Device gets hang. No OTP will come in time. No proper maintenance. And please don’t reply my review with ‘’we are not able to understand your concern’’. What a stupid reply it is… 😒😏 If the app authorities can’t understand customer issues from the review, then no use in complaining.