Cabaero: Making app on contact tracing work

Nini Cabaero
·3 min read

CONTACT tracing is one of the key elements in the country’s coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response, yet efforts have been sporadic, disorganized and individualized.

To correct this and to finally come up with a unified contact tracing program, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Friday, March 12, 2021, the application StaySafe.ph will be fully implemented in the next 10 days. But it’s not as easy as it appears. Government offices and local government units (LGUs) have to adopt it. Groups and individuals have to learn to use it. The government took its time deciding on a unified system to track Covid-19 cases and alert LGUs. Now it wants it implemented soon.

Here’s a review of the contact tracing application StaySafe.ph.

Advantages: It’s the official app; it is used for reporting on your health condition and for alerts to warn you of possible infection cases near you; it takes less than a minute to download to the mobile phone from Google Play or the App Store; it’s free; anonymous

Disadvantages: Not used by all government agencies and LGUs; unclear if other contact tracing apps can be integrated with it to come up with an extensive database; up to the user to input correct health data; target date for implementation unattainable if it includes incorporating data from LGUs; difficult to navigate to get desired information

StaySafe.ph is the official health condition reporting, contact tracing and social distancing system. Registration can be done via Facebook. You may choose to be anonymous, but you’ll have to input your mobile phone number. It then asks you to report on your health condition. You turn on Bluetooth to enable contact tracing and alerts to tell you if there are possible Covid-19 cases around you.

Roque said Friday the app will be implemented in 10 days and that LGUs with their own contract-tracing applications must integrate with the StaySafe.ph app. The 10-day timeframe seems unattainable since integration usually takes time because it is not simply dumping data into the new program.

In addition, there are different data sets to be unified. The Department of Health data include case investigation reports that are not needed or are too detailed for contact tracing. Some LGUs also have their own apps. There are others too such as SafePass by the Department of Tourism, Trazer by the Philippine Ports Authority, and Traze by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Bureau of Immigration. All these cropped up out of necessity because there was no national unified system early in the pandemic and until now.

Now that the National Government decided to use an official contact tracing application it should make sure that the data get integrated and the other apps give way to StaySafe.ph. How to do that in 10 days or even two months will take determination and a clear direction. But the government must make it work because to not have effective contact tracing will mean the country will continue to fail in its Covid-19 response.