Government Developing a COVID-19 Contact Tracing Solution for Feature Phones

The government has lately been aggressively pushing its indigenously evolved contact tracing app called Aarogya Setu to assist clients with distinguishing in the event that they are at the danger of contamination. Notwithstanding, it appeared to be a superficial effort, as it forgot about an enormous piece of the population that despite everything utilizes a feature telephone and along these lines, can’t download the app. The government is currently hoping to fathom that bit of puzzle by developing a contact tracing solution that works for feature phones.

Association IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as of late referenced in a tweet that simply like Aaraogya Setu, “a similar solution for feature phones is being created and will be launched very soon.” But up until this point, details about the venture have been scarce. Also, it isn’t realized how contact tracing will be actualized on feature phones, since installing a dedicated app on them is close to inconceivable. This leaves cellular location tracking as the main viable strategy to execute contact tracing at ground level, yet its effectiveness remains an unavoidable issue for reasons mutiple.

Government Developing a COVID-19 Contact Tracing Solution for Feature Phones

Every state highly appreciated the #AarogyaSetu app and shared their thoughts on it.
I have assured them that a similar solution for feature phones is being developed and will be launched very soon.

— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) April 28, 2020

According to IDC Research Director Navkendar Singh, the quantity of feature telephone clients in India is at present higher than the quantity of individuals who own a smartphone. Singh called attention to that compared to 450 million smartphone clients in India, there are roughly 550 million people who still run a feature telephone. Leaving that half a billion in number userbase out of its COVID-19 tackling efforts is only a catastrophe waiting to happen.

“The majority of feature phones are not data enabled, and most have no Bluetooth or GPS capability,” Singh was cited as saying by The Register. “Given the constraints of feature telephone operating frameworks, getting the contact tracing app installed on basic phones is a major challenge,” he added.

This is because contact tracing frameworks depend on Bluetooth to share randomized keys between phones when two individuals are close, and then utilize situating data to recognize if an individual has been in contact with a contaminated individual. Google and Apple’s mutually evolved introduction notification framework takes a shot at this very formula.

Be that as it may, a majority of feature phones pass up Bluetooth and/or GPS, which makes it a challenge in itself to assemble a contact tracing solution for feature phones. The main conceivable way to execute it currently comes down to arrange based tracking by collaborating with telecom operators. In any case, up until this point, no major research has established cellular system based contact tracing as a viable solution.

Giving his input on a solution that appears to be “problematic” as it so happens, head of research at CCS Insight, Ben Wood revealed to The Register that feature phones lack GPS support, and regardless of whether they do, adding a dedicated app to feature phones is almost unimaginable.

“This means the main choice is to do location tracking at a system level and on 2G and 3G, yet the granularity of the location isn’t usually particularly accurate,” he added. A couple of Indian states have supposedly utilized system level tracing, however we are yet to run over any example of overcoming adversity.

Technical obstacles galore

Another major obstacle is cellular availability itself, because the system of Indian telecom operators isn’t uniformly available in all districts, especially rural areas, which is the place a majority of feature telephone clients are concentrated. And regardless of whether the government comes up with an app-based contact tracing solution for feature phones, getting it installed and running on them is a daunting task itself. This is primarily because for smartphones, there are just two platforms to take a shot at –  Android and iOS.

In any case, OS fragmentation on account of feature phones is significantly more perplexing. Indeed platform compatibility will be an enormous code to crack. After that, educating individuals on the most proficient method to utilize it would be an arduous task in itself, considering the semantic decent variety and the time it would take to reach feature telephone clients in all remote pockets of the nation.

Contact tracing at its heart will require a central database of all individuals who have tried positive so that those who’ve been in contact with a contaminated individual can be informed and they can accordingly take measures, for example, self-quarantine and get medical assistance in time. Yet, doing so may require sharing that database with telecom operators in a single form or the other, which is simply one more privacy-related contention bomb waiting to detonate.

Except if, the government concocts an advanced security framework that will keep all data in a scrambled form and safe from threat actors. In any case, building such a framework is easier said than done, particularly in case of feature phones. This is especially relevant given the privacy concerns encompassing the government’s Aarogya Setu app for contact tracing.

Richa Pandit

Hi, This is Richa Pandit, Blogger & writer on Businessrooters.

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