India to Share CoWin Success Story With World on Monday. Here’s a Look At Its Uses & Controversies

·5-min read

India is set to share the development story of Co-WIN with more than 20 countries that have shown interest in adopting the portal to run their own inoculation drives, with the virtual Co-WIN Global Conclave on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also attend the programme and share his thoughts towards the initiative at 3pm, the PMO said in a tweet. Several countries such as Vietnam, Peru, Mexico, Iraq, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Ukraine, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates and Uganda have expressed interest in learning about the Co-WIN technology to run their own Covid vaccination programmes.

After Co-WIN was operationalised on January 16, it has scaled rapidly amidst multiple policy changes and developments. After the launch of its third version, Co-WIN had already witnessed over 20 crore registrations by early May.

Here’s a look at what all can be done through Co-WIN and the controversies the platform has generated:

Registration and booking of vaccination slots

For Co-Win, there is a mobile application as well as a website for beneficiaries and officials involved in the vaccination process. On Co-Win, one can book a vaccination slot by registering with their mobile number. Prior registration on Cowin.gov.in is no longer required, however registration on this site is required to keep track of all vaccinations.

Download a certificate

One can download the vaccination certificate following immunisation from one’s Co-Win account, which will become a crucial travel document in the coming days. The Ministry of External Affairs expects that the Co-Win certificate will be recognised as genuine proof of immunisation by other countries.

Certificate editing

Any inaccuracy in the vaccine certificate can now be edited using the platform.

Fill in the passport information on the certificate.

To make it easier for Indians wanting to travel overseas, the portal now allows users to link their passport to their Covid-19 immunisation certificate.

Combine the certificates

Beneficiaries who received two doses enrolling from two different phone lines and two different certificates can now combine the two certificates.

Co-WIN controversies

Privacy Concerns

Amid concerns of privacy of user data being shared on the Co-WIN platform, Former TRAI Chairman RS Sharma, Chairman of Empowered Group on Technology and Data Management to combat Covid-19 and member, National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration of Covid-19, slammed concerns on CoWIN app and said that the data was protected and safe in the app.

In an interview to the Hindu Business Line in January this year, Sharma said: “What is the private information the government has for vaccination? Don't you think government should have the information about whether you will be vaccinated or not? Now, if you register yourself saying I am so and so and give details is that violation of privacy?”

“I think some people are obsessed with this whole concept of privacy. If you are taking a train and at the station, you find a paper which is pasted on the compartment that gives PNR number, the name of the person, the gender and the age. And, some people say 'oh, why there is no privacy?' There is a limit to the argument on privacy,” he had said, adding that the Data Protection and Privacy Law was in the making and the government would comply with that.

He assured that there would be no violation of privacy. “There is no private information that we will be tracking,” he had said.

Reports of Co-WIN being hacked

Reports of the Co-WIN platform being hacked emerged in June, after which the Centre clarified that these reports were fake, adding that the portal stores all the vaccination data in a safe and secure digital environment.

“There have been some unfounded media reports on the CoWIN platform being hacked. Prima facie, these reports appear to be fake,” a statement issued by the Union Health Ministry had said.

However, the ministry and the Empowered Group on Vaccine Administration (EGVAC) are getting the matter investigated by the Computer Emergency Response Team of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY), the statement added.

The news spread after a hacking organisation known as ‘Dark Leak Market’ claimed through Twitter that it possesses the database of nearly 15 crore Indians who have registered on the CoWIN portal, and that it is reselling the data for $800 because it is not among the “original leakers.”

Digital Divide

Amid criticism of a digital divide hampering citizens’ vaccination, the Supreme Court had flagged that a “vaccination policy exclusively relying on digital portal Co-WIN for inoculating those aged between 18 to 44 years would be unable to meet its target of universal immunisation due to "digital divide” and marginalised sections of society would bear the brunt of "accessibility barrier”.

In its reply to the apex court, the government had in its reply on June 26 said that online registration, prior self-registration and booking of appointment on Co-WIN was also not mandatory to avail vaccination services.

The affidavit said if a person having no access to either internet or digital devices or does not wish to self-register wants to be vaccinated, he or she can visit the nearest vaccination centre where a health worker would register him in the device of the respective centre on the Co-WIN platform and the person would be vaccinated. It said that all the necessary features to ensure that every eligible individual has access to vaccination, regardless of any of physical, digital or socio-economic barriers to access, have been incorporated in Co-WIN.

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