A Month After Release, Aarogya Setu App Awaits Inclusion of Many Vernacular Languages

While the app is offered in 12 languages, other constitutionally recognised languages – such as Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili, Dogri, Kashmiri, Sindhi, Konkani and Manipuri – have been left on the wayside.

New Delhi: Even as the Narendra Modi government looks to make the Aarogya Setu app mandatory for large swathes of the population, the digital contact tracing app’s interface still lacks the ability to be shown in more than a few constitutionally-recognised Indian languages.

This may not only put off potential users, but also reduce the usefulness of the app for many Indians.

Over the last month, the Narendra Modi government has been pushing people to download and use the Aarogya Setu app, which asks its user to provide access to location data at all times and also asks for the user’s name, gender, profession, and countries visited in the last 30 days.

Once the app is downloaded, it asks the user to pick a language and displays a list wherein one can pick English, Assamese, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Marathi, Bangla, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam or Odia – a total of 12 languages.

But many languages such as Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili, Dogri, Kashmiri, Sindhi, Konkani as well as Manipuri, which are also constitutionally recognised languages, have been left on the wayside.

When asked about the languages that have not yet been integrated into the app, MyGovIndia CEO Abhishek Singh acknowledged the missing languages and said that the others would be gradually included, and claimed that the chosen languages cover almost 90% of the population and that so far 93 million people have downloaded the app.

Also read: Aarogya Setu App: A Tale of the Complex Challenges of a Rights-Based Regime

However, with new cases being recorded every day, gradual additions could cost India.

When Singh was asked about how the app would reach out to the section of India’s population that is illiterate, he said that information about COVID-19 are being carried out through TV, radio, social media, podcasts etc. He also added that the recently launched 1921 IVRS Aarogya Setu service works in a way wherein users get call backs if they give a missed call to 1921, and then they are asked questions similar to the self-assessment exercise on the Aarogya Setu app.

However, the IVRS is available in the same 12 languages only.

On being asked about how the app plans to track regions where the languages used have not been included, Singh claimed that, “Most people are comfortable in using apps in Hindi and English as is true for other apps. Also, Aarogya Setu is only complementing the efforts of health and administrative officials in dealing with the pandemic.”