Ugandans Develop App for COVID-19 Contact Tracing

COVID-19 contact tracing (file photo).

As Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc worldwide, many scientists are looking for possible solutions to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the infection.

Defining Technologies, a Ugandan firm, has developed a contact tracing app which alerts users and the Ministry of Health in case someone has been in contact with a Covid-19 positive person.

"The public users can see if they have been exposed, privately log your location and completely control your data whereas the champions of this fight (public health officials) are offered with reliable contact tracing, map infections with accuracy and anonymously verify cases," Mr Toskin Gregory, a cyber security analyst at Define Technologies, said on Thursday.

Mr Gregory explained that the app uses smartphone technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS) and Bluetooth to collect and share the data, which are agile and easy to use.

"The digital contact tracing app uses overlapped GPS and Bluetooth trails that allow an individual to check if they have crossed paths with someone who was later diagnosed for the virus. Through Covid Tracer, public health officials are equipped to redact location trails of diagnosed carriers and thus broadcast location information with privacy protection for both diagnosed patients and local businesses," he said.

Using the Bluetooth capabilities in smartphones, the Covid-19 Tracing app keeps records of who a person meets. If a user or contact is confirmed to be positive, it will send notifications to everybody on that list, advising them to self-isolate.

The contact trace app, which was developed at breakneck speed over the past three months, with now 5,000 users, was donated to the Ministry of Health National Taskforce to help in fast tracking of contacts.

The new app is part of a worldwide scramble to deploy smartphone tools to rein in on the pandemic. Other countries in the world have also developed similar apps, which are being used by most of the citizens.

In East Asian countries, this has been more mandatory than voluntary, the citizens are encouraged by the government to install the app, which exchanges Bluetooth signals between mobile phones in close proximity.

However, there have been concerns by people where the use of technology raises sobering policy questions about data sovereignty and privacy issues.

Other innovations

Other innovations developed by Ugandans during this period include a hand-free sanitizer that uses sensors to automatically dispense water and soap for handwashing, developed by a group of students from the Islamic University In Uganda (IUIU) and Kabale University.

Also rapid diagnostic kits are being manufactured by Dr Misaki Wayengera, a lecturer of immunology and molecular biology at Makerere University to be used by the surveillance teams.

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, on April 15, said a team of experts at the university were manufacturing low- cost ventilators to bolster the country's capacity to provide critical care in case the demand increases.

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