DOST pilot-testing contact tracing app

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star
DOST pilot-testing contact tracing app
The pilot test is being done in collaboration with tech startup company Unawa, according to Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña.
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MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has developed a contact tracing app for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) positive and suspected cases.

Dubbed SafePass, the app is undergoing pilot testing in two DOST facilities in Metro Manila – the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology central office in Quezon City and the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory at the DOST central office complex in Bicutan, Taguig City.

The pilot test is being done in collaboration with tech startup company Unawa, according to Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña.

“I think it will be a big help,” Dela Peña said.

He said a more effective contact tracing is needed, especially with the gradual shift to the “new normal” and more people going back to work.

The SafePass is seen to be a contact tracing option for government agencies and is planned to be utilized in the entire DOST system.

It is an all-digital, contact-free authorizing, scheduling and contact-tracing solution, he added.

The system can be used to plan and manage space capacity and people’s schedule to allow safe distancing during operating hours, Dela Peña said.

It also allows the collection of information on COVID-19 symptoms, recent exposure to COVID patients or travel.

The SafePass is another collaboration of the DOST with technopreneur Winston Damarillo, through his DevConnect Philippines Inc. group of volunteer developers of the RapidPasssystem.

Questionable app

Meanwhile, former Department of Information and Communications Technology undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. has cited irregularities in the decision made by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to exclusively use the private company-developed StaySafe app to do contact tracing of COVID-19 positive cases.

Taking to social media over the weekend, Rio said the IATF’s move to tap the StaySafe app was questionable given its numerous weaknesses.

Rio, former commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission, in a post on his Facebook account last Saturday said that among the weaknesses of the StaySafe app was its lack of pilot testing, limited number of users, limitation to smartphones, being unavailable to 2G phone users and vulnerability to hacking.

He said the IATF move favoring StafSafe played a part in the recent rise of COVID-19 cases.

“All contact tracing always start with a person tested positive for Covid-19 infection. In manual contact tracing, a contact tracer assigned to an infected person, first gets a list of people who may have come close to the person in the past few days, then have all of these tested and those whose results turn out positive will start a new contact tracing. In digital contact tracing, the person’s cellphone, with an app similar to StaySafe, will contain cellphone numbers of people who may have come in close contact with the infected person,” Rio said.

“However for this to happen, the cellphones of those other people, must have a similar app in his/her phone, for if not, the phone without the app will not be seen. Those phones the app will determine as having come in close contact with the infected person, will then be sent a text message so that the owner will be told to have himself tested,” he said.


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