back to article India to build contact-tracing app for feature phones that still use 2G, don't have Bluetooth and can't run apps

The Indian government has signaled it will develop a COVID-19 contact-tracing that will work on the feature phones that comprise over half of the national mobile phone fleet. India has already created a contact-tracing app for iOS and Android called "Aarogya Setu" that has scored 75m downloads. Aarogya Setu relies on Bluetooth …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    The Indian outsourcer tha got the job outsourced it to Capita

  2. steviebuk Silver badge

    This is the problem

    My dad for example has a Microsoft phone that is now defunct and only really for calls. There will be no app for that I'm sure. And I think my mum has a featureless phone. Wouldn't surprise me if there are a lot of old people in homes with no mobile, the very people they want to install the app.

    We could repair old phones and give them those but because the industry, especially Apple, is so dead against right to repair, that can't happen either.

    1. JDPower Bronze badge

      Re: This is the problem

      I don't think old people in homes do much travelling to actually trace

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is the problem

      'My dad for example has a Microsoft phone that is now defunct and only really for calls...'

      oh, thanks for reminding me I've one of these sitting in the laptop bag doing nothing. Time to check it's still operational in case they make these bloody apps fact, I wonder if I can find the battery and a charger for my old v3688?

  3. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Sounds like a non-starter to me. Even if you could get reasonably accurate location data from the networks themselves, that wouldn't get height information, so pretty useless when people are on different levels in buildings. All it could be used for is giving a reasonable probability that someone is part of a crowd. It could just be an excuse for the Indian government to track its citizens more closely.

    1. JetSetJim

      Yep, it's difficult to derive height from rf measurements on a phone. Unless you're in a tall building with a network of small cells in it - not hugely normal, but not exactly rare, either. Some techniques may help, e.g. the higher you are the more likely it is to see a distant cell, but they're not that reliable.

      The inaccuracies inherent in relying on network derived location rather than either GPS or Bluetooth proximity mean that the back trace for s contact will get very large very quickly

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Agreed as far as location is concerned. Maybe people with feature phones don't work in office buildings ?

      But as far as tracking is concerned, all governments have no need of anything special, they can all pressure the operators to give the user location history already, so no loss of privacy there, it's already lost.

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      It worked in South Korea - the ususal source:

      In South Korea, a non-app-based system was used to perform contact tracing. Instead of using a dedicated app, the system gathered tracking information from a variety of sources including mobile device tracking data and card transaction data, and combined these to generate notices via text messages to potentially-infected individuals.

      1. tfewster

        South Korea managed to limit the spread of infection very well, so it's worth looking at anything they did.

        But NIH syndrome abounds, so every country and tech company is developing their own apps.

  4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    Bluetooth is not baked into around a quarter of the world's mobile's

    And even if it were, you need a way to program each device to use it's bluetooth differently to the device's in-built bluetooth profiles.

    Doable on smartphones, if they can support the app. Which is a separate question.

    Pretty-much impossible for feature phones without a firmware update. Given the age, manufacturer range, model range of feature phones out there, that seems like a non-starter.

    1. Mellipop

      Re: Bluetooth is not baked into around a quarter of the world's mobile's

      and Bluetooth is not needed, nor is WiFi or GPS.

      Try this -

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They could give every person with an Aadhaar a free basic samsung smartphone

    Or if they can prove they already have a smartphone a 750 credit to their smartphone bank account.

    Might cost $15 Billion or so but would be very popular and improve literacy, ebanking etc

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Don't need GPS

    Well, you don't need GPS *or* network location tracking, if your real goal is simply contact tracing. They plan to do the non-privacy-preserving tracking every phone in the country type of thing. I suppose they would set up a text number to text if someone DOES have Covid 19? Anyway, I don't see network-based tracking being accurate enough to determine if phones have been in close contact with each other (as opposed to bluetooth, where the devices really do have to be within like 100 feet or less).

  8. marky_boi

    Sounds like an IBM project

    Promise some nebulous idea, charge the earth and say ohhhhh you wanted that???? no we can't do that ...... in this case we have gone to the land of the outsourcer directly ... just waiting for the ohhhh too hard in a few weeks

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