Singapore launches app to combat spread of COVID-19

31st March 2020 Jonathan Andrews

A new app developed by Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and the Ministry of Health, has been launched to help trace and record citizens movements to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Users must provide explicit consent to participate in the app, TraceTogether, and for their mobile number and app data to be used for contact tracing.

Previously authorities relied on the recall and memory of those suspected to be infected with coronavirus, in which many could not remember all their contacts, or did not have information about the people with whom they had been in contact. 

The app works by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other participating TraceTogether users in close proximity. Records are stored locally on each user’s phone. If a user is interviewed by the health ministry as part of the contact tracing efforts, he/she can consent to send his/her TraceTogether data to the ministry.  

In a statement released by GovTech, the agency said: “This enables users to take the necessary action sooner, such as monitoring his or her own health closely for signs of flu-like symptoms. Early detection could potentially help reduce the risk of the spread of the virus, and better protect our families and loved ones.”

The agency emphasised that no personal data is recorded, with only a mobile number for verification needed and that all TraceTogether logs are stored locally on the user’s phone in an encrypted form. The logs only leave a user’s phone when he/she sends the information to the authorities to facilitate contact tracing.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Singapore has recorded 879 cases of coronavirus with 228 people having recovered and to date only three deaths.

GovTech has responded to the coronavirus pandemic with a host of tools to help citizens. These include:

  • VigilantGantry, an AI-driven automated temperature screening gantry that augments existing thermal systems to enhance the rate of contactless screening, saving time and manpower.
  • Self-help Temperature Scanner which uses existing contactless off-the-shelf battery-operated infrared thermometer and other off-the-shelf materials. The thermometer is retrofitted with a motion-sensing camera and a power source to enable it to do a temperature scan without human intervention. 
  • Ask Jamie chatbot, a virtual assistant designed to answer queries within specific domains on government agency websites. Launched in 2014, Ask Jamie has been implemented across 70 Government agency websites.
  • COVID-19 Chat for Biz which addresses questions from businesses related to COVID-19, including information on measures to help businesses in Budget 2020.
  • Gov.sg WhatsApp which provides citizens updates on the COVID-19 situation. This service is available in four languages, and the system has been optimised to send multi-lingual messages to all subscribers within 30 minutes.
  • And MaskGoWhere, a website that helps Singaporean households find the designated location, day and time to collect their allocation of masks.

*If you are a CIO, mobility head, or sustainable/resilience officer of a city and would like to contribute and share your experiences with your peers regarding the coronavirus pandemic, please email: editorial@nullcities-today.com to speak with one of the Cities Today team

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