India has delivered on its promise to adapt its Aarogya Setu contact-tracing app for feature phones.
A Sunday Tweet confirmed the app’s existence and that it runs on phones from Jio, the nation’s largest mobile carrier.
Aarogya Setu App is now available on KaiOS platform. More than 55 million users on Jio phones can now download the App and join the fight against COVID19.— Aarogya Setu (@SetuAarogya) May 16, 2020
App to be available on other Jio models soon!!#SetuMeraBodyguard #IndiaFightsCorona pic.twitter.com/xfO1PENTBu
Jio currently offers two phones, a $10 candy bar model and vintage-Blackberry-like $40 model 2. Both run KaiOS, an effort that derives from the Firefox OS that the browser-maker abandoned back in 2015 . They also offer Bluetooth, the key technology for contact-tracing apps.
While porting the app to KaiOS will mean the contact-tracing app can reach another 55 million devices, India has 550 million feature phone users. Statcounter suggests Android enjoys over 90 percent market share, meaning Bluetooth-driven contact-tracing apps’ problems with iOS will be less of an issue in India than elsewhere.
While the advent of Arrogya Setu on Jio phones is welcome, India has not open-sourced the app. That’s not a massive issue given KaiOS has minuscule global market share, but stands in contrast to other nations contact-tracing efforts.
Security researchers claim the app has security flaws while India’s Software Freedom Law Centre has published criticism of the app on grounds that not being open-sourced is unhelpful, that its efficacy is untested, that using both GPS and Bluetooth represents unwarranted intrusion into users’ movements, and that making use mandatory is unreasonable. ®