Technology Use by Urban Local Bodies in India to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic

Technology Use by Urban Local Bodies in India to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic

Falguni Mukherjee (Sam Houston State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/IJEPR.20210401.oa9
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This article provides a comprehensive review of the use of information and communication technologies by urban local bodies in India in their war against the COVID-19 pandemic based on a detailed survey conducted during the pandemic period. India reported its first case of COVID-19 in late January, and government authorities have been on a war footing since then to curb the spread of the virus. Following a tradition that has been instilled within government agencies since the Modi Government came into power in 2014, local, state, and central government agencies turned to a widespread use of geospatial, surveillance and information and communication technologies as part of a strategy to monitor and track movement, manage individuals, and enforce quarantine norms. However, several important questions arise from the blind use of technology that remain unanswered. The use of technology by government agencies raise key questions on privacy, civil liberties, and suitability and viability of their use.
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1. Introduction

In December 2019 the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. The virus spread rapidly to other parts of the country and globally to other countries around the world. The infections spread very quickly and the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infected 1000 individuals in a matter of 48 days, equivalent to the number of infections by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – related coronavirus (MERS) in two and a half years from 2012 to 2014 and by SARS infection in 2002-2003 in a period of two months (Boulos and Geraghty, 2020). On January 30, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) (WHO, 2020).

The disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is characterized by mild to severe acute upper respiratory symptoms. Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions are more susceptible to developing serious complications from the disease (CDC, 2020). Currently, there are 11.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 538,828 deaths worldwide (John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, accessed on 7/7/2020). The disease has presented the world with unique social and economic challenges bringing the world’s healthcare system to its knees. In the absence of an appropriate pharmacological intervention the most prevalent non-pharmaceutical measures implemented worldwide include shelter in place, social-distancing and lockdowns. Such measures have been implemented with varying degrees of severity in different parts of the world including India. For instance, in late March 2020 the Modi government in India announced a complete lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus that has infected 719,664 individuals so far (data retrieved on July 7, 2020).

Following the announcement, the country’s 1.3 billion population was mandated to self-isolate that continued for 40 days. All international flights to India were discontinued and the government put forth very stringent quarantine and containment measures to establish strict social distancing measures which included “janta curfew” and non-attendance of work and school among others. Social distancing and surveillance and monitoring of individuals to track movement are the two measures that have seen widespread administration throughout India. State and local government bodies have turned to technologies that are utilized for urban governance purposes to manage and monitor quarantining norms, track individuals and public health service deliveries and curb the spread of the virus.

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