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Wednesday,October 21,2020 02:41 AM

Youths develop COVID-19 tracer app

By Ritah Mukasa

Added 23rd June 2020 06:46 PM

This mobile app was launched in April 2020 and recently, the team donated it to Ugandans through the National COVID-19 Task Force.

Youths develop COVID-19 tracer app

COVID-19 contact-tracing app. (Courtesy photo)

This mobile app was launched in April 2020 and recently, the team donated it to Ugandans through the National COVID-19 Task Force.

HEALTH   COVID-19   INVENTION

Defining Technologies Ltd, a youth-led technology startup in collaboration with Mbegu za Mapinduzi a youth forum consisting of health practitioners, developed a breakthrough technology dubbed COVID Tracer App.

This mobile app was launched in April 2020 and recently, the team donated it to Ugandans through the National COVID-19 Task Force.

They developed this tool to ease the process of tracing community infections. 

This approach promotes the inclusion of the general public efforts with those of the public health officials.

Remember, a person who has been in contact with a COVID-19 patient is prone to infection.  Identifying those who have been exposed involves interviewing the infected person to ascertain their movements and all the people they have been in contact with before and after testing positive.

Gregory Toskin, owner of Defining Technologies Ltd who also masterminded this innovation says this technology uses overlapped GPS and Bluetooth trails that allow an individual to check if they have crossed paths with someone who was diagnosed with Coronavirus.

[image_library_tag 6bc1742c-cbad-4262-90bc-27a1f58a24c0 720x480 height="480" width="720" alt=" Toskin Gregory, Founder Defining Technologies Limited. (Courtesy photo)" ]
Toskin Gregory, Founder Defining Technologies Limited. (Courtesy photo)


It also helps the health authorities to trace paths of infections and also notify users if they've been near a COVID-19 patient. 

"It tracks all users and this helps to automate coronavirus contact tracing," he says.

Norbert Mwebaze, another developer asserts that with this app, the Ministry of Health won't have to go through the usual patient interrogations of where they have been, whom they have interacted with among other questions.

"The public health officials are equipped to redact location trails of diagnosed carriers and broadcast location information," he explains. However, there is privacy protection for both diagnosed patients and local businesses. 

How it works

With this App, users can see if they have been exposed to the virus and their location.

The health officials are also offered with reliable contact tracing, map infections with accuracy and anonymously verify cases. They can build and maintain a digital record of locations where COVID-19 may have been passed to others, expediting and improving contact tracing efforts.

To use this App, one has to first download and install it. Thereafter, they can recommend it to friends, family and all contacts so that every Ugandan is connected and the tracing can be more efficient on a large scale.

So far, Toskin says that only 5,000 Ugandans have installed the app. 

If the user later reports that they have tested positive for coronavirus, the App immediately pings a message to people who have been in close contact with that user in the last few days based on their anonymous Identities (IDs).

The app will recommend that those people self-isolate as they wait for the Ministry of Health to reach them within 24 hours. However, those contacted won't know the identity of the person who may have passed on the virus.

"If these contacts test negative, they may then be released from self-isolation by notification through the app," Toskin says. 

He adds that the data is stored for about 28 days and deleted after.

On the other hand, the public health officials are equipped to redact location trails of diagnosed carriers. After, they broadcast location information with privacy protection for both diagnosed patients and local businesses. 

Records of such encounters are stored locally on each user's phone. If a user is interviewed by the Ministry of Health Uganda as part of the contact tracing efforts, they can consent to send their data to MOH hence displaying the privacy-first approach. 

"This facilitates the contact tracing process and enables contact tracers to inform COVID Tracer users who are close contacts of COVID-19 cases more quickly," he explains. 

Therefore, users can take the necessary action such as reporting to MoH or monitor their health for flu-like symptoms. 

How the app will help the government 

Toskin is optimistic this app is going to support the government as they slowly ease the lockdown restrictions.

This is because it enables digital contact-tracing on a large scale such that people can go about their businesses as the app notifies when they are in proximity to possible COVID-19 patients. It also immediately reports to the authorities. 

"It could pinpoint exactly who needs to be in quarantine and who doesn't. This makes social distancing easy," he opines.

"Through sharing installation packages in social media forums like WhatsApp, 5,000 Ugandans who have installed the app and more are continuing to do so," he adds. However, there is a need to roll out this app to the general population.

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