Mobile Contact Tracing
COVID-19 Crisis Response
Contact Tracing: is defined as the practice of identifying and monitoring individuals who may have been in contact with an infectious person. This practice is used as a means to controlling the spread of communicable disease. This method was used in Sierra Leone with the Ebola crisis in 2014.
Mobile devices are being used as a means to enhance contact tracing to curb the spread of Covid-19. Globally states such as South Korea, China and Israel have used mobile contact tracing and other technological surveillance to monitor the spread of the virus. The use of mobile contact tracing has not come without concerns regarding government’s power of surveillance of its citizens. There has also been calls to regulate the manner in which states can use contact tracing. Tech companies Google and Apple have stepped in to provide a contact tracing app that could enable states to perform mobile contact tracing by using their platforms. The world’s first contact tracing app using the companies API has been launched in Switzerland.
While some governments and companies are creating their own apps and contact tracing technology. African countries are relying on mobile contact tracing to effectively trace people as economies in the continent gradually reopen.
The state of Ghana launched the GH COVID19 Tracker app, the country’s vice president Dr Bawumia stated that the government was relying heavily on the use and collection of data to fight the spread of the virus in the country. The use of GH COVID19 Tracker app will boost the states strategy of testing, tracing contacts and treatment.The app provides real time information and uses common mobile device networks to trace people, trace their recent movement and through phone logs the app can link people that have been in contact with a Covid-19 patient to a health professional for assistance and guidance.
Rwanda’s Utilities Regulatory Authority has set a team that uses mobile phone data profiles to trace and track people exposed to someone that tested positive with Covid-19. When a person tests positive with Covid the system uses the persons profile to retrieve data from the closest transmission tower to track their movement. This information is used to trace phone’s that were in close proximity of the person’s phone and contact those people for testing.
The country’s largest telecommunication company Telkom is working with the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) and Samsung for a trace and track solution. The solution uses data such as geographic information system to track people who have been exposed to a person with covid-19, this reducing the reliance on patients recollection.
Researchers at the University of Cape Town have also developed a covid tracking mobile app to assist the state in contact tracing. The app is able to collect personal locations of users and their infection status. This information is stored on the smartphone of the person in question and uses self-sovereign identity technology that is a non centeralised data base neither belonging to the state or private sector.
Kenya’s Health cabinet secretary Mutahi Kagwe called for young people in the country to create and develop technology driven solutions towards tackling the covid epidemic. One inventor took on the challenge, Peter Munyi developed the Fuata contact tracing app. Once downloaded the user receives a unique ID that will alert a person if they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive with covid. Or if one of the people the user has been in contact with test positive later.As the user goes about their daily routine and comes into contact with other people, the user’s phone communicates with other individuals phones remotely through the same app.