Copycat Cowin Apps Confuse Vaccine Hopefuls

The government is yet to make the available for download to the public.

The recent announcement of COWIN (COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network) mobile app by the government for vaccine registration has led people to download other apps of the same name from the Google Play Store. The government hasn't made the app available to the general public yet, but there are a few other COWIN apps on the playstore. BOOM spoke to developers who have made one of these apps who clarified that their app predates the announcement by the government and has nothing to do with the vaccine rollout programme.

ALSO READS: COVID-19 Vaccine Fiasco Shows Regulators Not Following Rules: Experts

The Ministry of Health on January 6, 2021, warned users from downloading apps from the Play Store with the same name as 'COWIN' stating that they might be fraudulent.

A look at Google Play Store shows that there are three apps with the name 'COWIN.'

Out of these, 2 apps are music apps, while one app, called 'Cowin - A Smarter Way,' which was also mentioned in the Mumbai Tak video, is available for download.

Made by a company called KUSS INC., the description says that Cowin is specially designed to help all Indian citizens face challenging times in a smarter and efficient way. The app doesn't say that it is the same government app for COVID19 vaccine registration. The app has a dashboard that shows the current cases, recovered cases and death count of COVID19.

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BOOM spoke to the makers of this COWIN-A Smarter Way app and found out the app has been made by four engineering students, whose names are mentioned in the description of the app. The app making company, 'KUSS INC,' is an anagram of the developers' initials -- Krish Chawla, Uday Bhirud, Sunny Advani and Sagar Jaidhara, students at Electronics and Telecommunication Branch of Thadomal Shahani Engineering College. The app was launched in August 2020, before the government came out with the name of the vaccine registration app.

Uday Bhirud, said that the app was named 'Cowin' after their original name 'Corona Go,' was rejected by the play store. Sunny Advani, another student involved in developing the app, says that Google Play store doesn't allow apps with the name 'Corona' in them, hence they came up with a pun on the name.

This co-incidence has meant their app downloads, which were edging towards 500 by November 2020, reached 25,000 downloads plus after the government announced the vaccine registration app.

The screenshot shows the increase in downloads for the Cowin - A Smarter Way app.

Bhirud says, "We have nowhere stated that our app is the government app nor do we plan on stating otherwise. We developed this app in August because we wanted to help people locate pharmacies and local essential shops that were open in their neighbourhoods in Mumbai during the lockdown."

Though college students are surprised by the increase in the number of downloads and the negative backlash, they don't plan to take it down or changing the name.

The government's fondness for the name comes from the fact they beta-tested an app called CoWIN-20 in iOS and Android at the end of March 2020, which would help the users track people who have COVID19 infections around them, like the Aarogya Setu App.

ALSO READ: CoWin App: How To Self-Register For COVID19 Vaccine

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