The global health pandemic has caught governments flatfooted. Fortunately, the technology sector has provided innovative methods to combat the virus. Not only have vaccines been developed, but mobile phone apps have been created. They track infected people, provide the latest guidelines and pinpoint hotspots. Here are some of the most notable ones.
TraceTogether was developed for Singapore, a crowded city of several million people. It was created by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) along with the Ministry of Health. It has been so successful that it’s been quipped it’s the prototype for the world. All that is required is a Singapore mobile phone number and a Bluetooth enabled phone. Its main function is contact tracing. It uses Bluetooth to track those infected with COVID-19. Contact tracing has come under privacy concerns, but this app doesn’t use GPS or wifi.
When two people with the app are close to each other, they exchange a temporary ID. The temporary ID is created by combining the user ID with a private key held by the Singapore Ministry of Health. Identity is never revealed. Given these features, it’s no wonder that TraceTogether is very popular. This is yet another win for the government of Singapore, which has a reputation for good governance.
Privacy concerns are especially important in the United States. This app was created by Stanford University. Bluetooth detects users who are close to each other and sends alerts if you were in contact with someone positive with COVID-19. Third parties, including the government, can’t track who was exposed by whom. The app is open-source, which means the source code is free and anyone can make an edit. This allowed rapid development of the app. It is one of the first apps with this protocol.
Aarogya Setu hit 50 million downloads within 13 days. It is the most downloaded COVID-19 app in the world. Besides doing all the tracking via Bluetooth like the previous apps, it has a self-testing function. The user answers a few questions. If there are suspicious symptoms, government servers are informed. There are also instructions for self-quarantine.
The global health crisis has been horrible. Tech is being used in new ways to combat the virus.