Mobile phones are at it again! Like last year, this year too, when COVID-19 pandemic is even more severe and virulent, these hand-held devices have come to your rescue. They have emerged as the key enablers for the fight against coronavirus that has forced many parts of the country to be at standstill affecting lives and economy like never before. They are mission critical to the functioning of government officials, hospitals, doctors, police, civil defence, disaster management personnel, officials ensuring provision of utilities such as electricity, water, sanitation, and the running of municipal bodies.
We have seen, over the course of the last year, the reliance on Aarogya Setu, COWIN and other mobile apps that how helpful they were in their respective areas. The widespread use of these apps has been crucial step in the right direction towards containing the infection. It is pertinent to note that these apps run on approx. 400 million smartphones. The effective functioning of these smartphones will be vital in the containment of COVID-19. Citizens who want to upgrade from feature phones to smartphones are being deprived of Aarogya Setu and COWIN. We estimate that this runs into at least 10 million citizens already. Even for ordinary citizens and office goers, the ability to “work from home” and “isolate” from each other necessarily requires lakhs of employees to use mobile phones and other mobile devices. With schools, colleges and other educational institutions being closed, there is a boost in digital education with classes being conducted online. This has increased dependency on the use of smartphones that have become the preferred mode for attending such classes. What’s more, these devices have significantly boosted the agriculture sector with e-agriculture taking place. Mobile phones and laptops are all the more crucial as courts have become virtual. Restrictions could also impact more than 100 million senior citizens who don’t have a phone and might want to purchase one, or those whose handsets have broken. Mobiles are one way for them to access information or reach out to authorities in case of an emergency.
In the stressful times of consequent lockdowns, many individuals are facing mental health issues, which have been effectively controlled with the uninterrupted access to entertainment sources, which help relieve stress. Furthermore, patients with minor ailments who are advised to refrain from visiting hospitals, can avail the option of seeking medical advice via online/ virtual modes with mobile apps such as Practo, Curefit etc. Mobile handsets have, in fact, become the lifeline for ensuring orderly and effective functioning of testing labs, clinics, nursing homes, ambulances, chemists and ration shops, e-commerce platforms, petrol pumps etc.
In view of the above, I request state governments of India to kindly include mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and their components, within the ambit of essential goods and services, so that their manufacturing, production, sales and distribution can continue uninterrupted in case of lockdowns.
Happy Reading and Stay Safe!