The entire world now knows everything regarding the COVID-19 virus and how to protect oneself from the same. All information regarding the same is widely available on the internet, right from the technique of washing hands and other hygiene methods to maintaining sufficient distance to prevent the spread of the virus. There are even some websites that update and provide the total number of global infections.
Now, all of this information is pretty basic that can be fetched from the web. However, some questions remain unanswered. For instance, take a look at issues like these:
- Can I catch an infection if I report for work today?
- Is my country heading towards the community stage (Stage 3) of infection spread?
- I have a slight cough and a fever. Should I get myself tested?
- Whom should I approach for a testing kit?
So, to help people out with these types of queries, a team of doctors and engineers have come out with an innovative technique. They are in the process of designing an app that would help people in answering all of their questions and doubts. The entire project is taken care of by Daniel Kraft, a US-based physician. The doctor has stated that his team has received a go-ahead notification from the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to Kraft, the app would be an open-sourced one. This app is to help people globally in tackling the COVID-19 virus.
Kraft also stated that a SWAT team of tech experts would be assisting with the app creation. Version 1 of the app is already in progress at present, and most likely, it would be available by next week.
Sameer Pujari, who is in charge of digital health and information at the WHO, has confirmed the statement given by Kraft. Pujari has also stated that Ray Chambers, who is an ambassador for global strategy at the WHO, would be assisting Kraft along with a team of WHO members. No further information regarding this aspect was provided, as the project is in a very premature phase.
Kraft has stated the app to be a “Waze for COVID-19”, something that would help people with some navigation advice during this COVID phase. He says that the app should be able to provide local information to the people. The app would also be having everyone’s data, which can be used by public health officials to improve the precision of the app.
All smartphones do have a GPS history of the user’s location, with the Help of which contact tracing becomes easier. By checking out the location records from an infected person’s phone and matching the same with the data of other people, public health officials can figure out the people who are at risk of contracting the virus.
In China and South Korea, the apps which collected data were quite useful in contact tracing, and thus, somehow, the virus spread was bought into control. However, the use of these apps increased mass surveillance in China, whereas, in South Korea, private information of a lot of people was being exposed. Due to these factors, epidemiologists are still deciding whether such apps should be introduced in Europe and the United States.
In Britain, a contact-tracing app is being developed such that only users who wish to provide their data can do so.
Likewise, the WHO app would ask people if they are OK with sharing their personal information with public health officials. The working of the app would solely depend on that.
According to Kraft, version 1 of the app is expected to contain just the basic features. On installing the app, users would get to view the WHO-approved information on how they can protect themselves and stay safe from the virus. It would include hand washing tips as well as social distancing techniques. Next, within something that looks like a chat-box, users would be asked questions on whether they have any symptoms of the flu virus.
A user experiencing any of these symptoms would be walked through a self-assessment. They would even be directed to a local site in case of ant testing or treatment. Going further, the app would also notify the user about the hospital where beds are available.
The contact tracing functionality will not be out in version 1 of the app. Help would be taken to implement this feature from an existing work done by Raskar, who is an associate professor at MIT Media Lab.