COVID-19 and its infection were first discovered in Wuhan which is quite infamous for its wet market. But with time, the virus spread like wildfire which has engulfed many nations bringing disastrous losses (economic and human) losses. But there are some nations which have proactively sought measures to tackle the situation and bring normalcy as early as it can. One among such nations is Singapore that has taken the stance of Social distancing really very seriously given the grave circumstances. Apart from stricter norms and regulations, the government in association with IT supremos has created a mobile application called Trace Together to identify contact tracing that has taken place.
As of now, the situation in Singapore is controlled with 879 positive cases and only 3 deaths registered. A great percentage of people have also recovered.
The Singapore government has successfully been able to emulate the benchmarked standards as it has the healthiest health systems, has undertaken proactive measures and is already pandemic ready with law-abiding citizens who have abided by the government’s draconian measures.
Let us discover together what the tracing app is all about.
Trace together - An app for contact tracing
The government of Singapore in association with the Health ministry and IT agency have launched a mobile application called Trace Together which aims at not just supporting the government measures but also trace individuals who have the disease as well as who they have come into contact with. The app was launched on 20th March and functions on the recall power of individuals. It tends to point out cases of people who have come into contact with individuals.
How does App work?
Contact tracing relies on the memory of individuals. Of course, the initial glitches were there when people were not able to remember who they were in contact with. The main working premise of the app is the short-distance Bluetooth signals that transmit between phones in order for easy detection of individuals with the same app. With this, data is generated which gets stored in the local phone memory. Ministry of Health also is taking one step further and interviewing individuals. If it requires data, it asks permission to which the users can give their consent. The app also enables users with data and alerts if they are close to an infected person. This information helps them to take immediate action. The app can be downloaded from the Android play store as well as the Apple app store
The app was built by the in-house IT agency of the government and it has already started its efforts to build the software for it. At present 620,000 people have installed the app and the government has decided to contribute to the cause by making the application available to everyone. This software will be freely available to all developers. It will be open-source implying that its code will be available to use. 40 engineers were in the mobile application development process which took more than 10,000 hours man-hours to complete. It does not possess GPS technology because it does not intend to know the location but rather who the person is.
If the app wants to access user location information it seeks permission before tracing the real-time geographical location. Before the app was launched it was rigorously tested in a premise that had anechoic chambers meant to keep out all signals to measure base-level formidability. The mobile application has been built on a very detailed Bluetooth hardware stack. It required very fast processing and its development time also was restricted.
Privacy concern is the foremost issue that can prevent a person from installing the app. But the app does not even gather personal detail guaranteeing maximum privacy and minimum invasion. It also does not access the contact list and messages. Even the data stored in the memory is in an encrypted form. If deemed necessary, it will be accessed by the government depending on the severity of the situation. Hence with respect to privacy concerns without a doubt, the application can be installed without worries.
Privacy concerns can be a bit of an issue when governments are increasingly relying on technologies to tackle the issue. South Korea is publishing the movements of people before they were diagnosed with COVID-19.
Some other measures
●Singapore already has a robust task force that is ready to take on such pandemic. It has taken some great measures apart from bringing together the app.
●It has dedicated 1000 health preparedness clinics with well-trained primary care staff.
●The initial diagnosis, as well as hospitalization costs, are being borne by the government making it easier for people to approach in case they feel any symptoms.
●The quarantine measures are rigorous especially with those who have had a travel history to the countries where a lot of positive cases have been registered.
There are several independent platforms that facilitate the process of mobile application development. But, rather than creating an app just as a lip service will not work because such apps are complex in nature. Our mobile application development process employs agile methodologies allowing for such rapid development mobile application development cycle.
A lot of countries have praised the efforts of the government in controlling the spread. There is a lot to be learned from its example.
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