WHO to launch contact tracing app.

WHO to launch contact tracing app.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is planning to launch a contact tracing app this month.

This app will help people in under-resourced countries to test and trace people exposed to Corona-virus.

According to Reuters, the contact tracing app is Bluetooth-based.

Chief Information Officer for WHO, Bernardo Mariano said that the app will  question people about their symptoms and offer guidance if they may have COVID-19

Other information such as how to get tested, will be personalized according to the user’s country.

Although the WHO will release a version on app stores globally, all governments can take the app’s underlying technology, add features and release its own version on app stores, Mariano further stated.

Countries like India, Australia, and the United Kingdom have already released official virus apps using their own technology.

WHO hopes the App will stir the interest of other countries such as South America and Africa since their numbers of cases are increasing.

According to Mariano, “The value is really for countries that do not have anything. We would be leaving behind the ones that are not able to provide an app, that has fragile health systems.”

The WHO team is also thinking about what it refers to as “Proximity tracing”.

Engineers have done initial work and confronted smartphone operating system makers Apple Inc and Google about adopting the technology the companies plan to release jointly this month to make tracing easier.

The technology dwells on virtual “handshakes” between phones that come a few feet of each other for at least five minutes. Phones keep anonymized logs of such encounters which allows anyone who later tests positive to anonymously send notifications to recent contacts about their possible exposure to the virus.

However, Mariano disclosed that legal and privacy concerns have prevented the WHO from implementing such a feature yet.

“We want to make sure we ring-fence all the risks around it. Apple and Google have said their system will not use any data for other purposes and will be stopped when the pandemic ends” Mariano added.

Also, WHO has intentions to release guidance on issues countries should consider as they develop their own proximity tracing apps.

In addition, WHO has planned to release another app to inform health workers globally about best practices for wearing protective gear, washing hands, and treating the virus.

Aside from that, the WHO is working to send information via text messages. In March, it introduced an account on Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp to give users information on corona-virus.

The world organization has also partnered with WhatsApp’s Free Basics program to make some information available without data charges.

Author

Tosin Agboola

Reporter with Ouut Africa.

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