The Aarogya Setu app was developed in the most transparent manner with public-private collaboration in record time to fight the coronavirus, the government said on Wednesday, in a detailed clarification after reports that ministries denied any knowledge of who created the app. The names of those associated with the app were already in the public domain, it asserted.
"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.
The clarification came after it emerged earlier on Wednesday that the government had been served notice by the Central Information Commission for what it called "evasive answers" on who created the contact tracing app that the government pushed as an essential tool in the fight against the coronavirus.
Aarogya Setu's website says it was developed by the National Informatics Centre and the Information Technology ministry but according to the Central Information Commission, various ministries and departments had given "evasive answers" to a Right to Information (RTI) query on who created the Aarogya Setu app.
"Denial of information by authorities cannot be accepted," the top RTI body said in its notice, calling it "extremely preposterous".
The notice questioned why the government should not face action for "prima facie obstruction of information" and giving an "evasive reply".
Activist Saurav Das had complained to the information commission that various ministries failed to provide details like how the app was proposed and approved; the companies, individuals and government departments involved; and copies of mails between private persons who helped develop the app.
Over a period of two months, the query bounced off various departments.
The National Informatics Centre reportedly said that the "entire file related to creation of the app is not with NIC". The IT ministry transferred the query to the National e-Governance Division, which said: "The information sought is not related to (our division)."
In its clarification, the government said 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, it said.
The statement said the app had been downloaded by more than 16 crore users and "has greatly augmented the efforts of front line health workers in the fight against COVID-19". It also flagged that the app's role had been appreciated by the World Health Organisation.
"There should be no doubt with regard to the Aarogya Setu app and its role in helping contain the COVID-19 pandemic in India," said the statement.