Bangladesh yesterday rolled out a contact tracing app on a trial basis to warn users if they have been near someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus and suggest the next course of actions in a bid to flatten the curve on the rogue pathogen.
Technologically advanced countries such as South Korea and Singapore were among the first countries that have rolled out such apps to trace infected persons and prepare a risky zone. Some other countries later developed and put in place their own contact tracing apps.
To avail the service, smartphone users need to use mobile application Corona Tracer BD, a contact tracing app.
The app has been developed by local technology company Shohoz under an initiative of the ICT Division and the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to bring the people of the country together in its fight against the COVID-19.
So far, 50 countries have introduced contact tracing app to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic.
State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak introduced the application during a virtual ceremony and requested every smartphone user to download it to stop the spread of the highly contiguous virus.
The app utilises Bluetooth signal to understand whether a user is near another individual who was tested positive in the past and this will help users find out whether they are at risk of COVID-19.
If a user is found to have been in contact with an infected individual recently, they would receive an alert. If the users' case seems risky, they will be able to seek medical help at the earliest and go into self-isolation, Palak said.
To use the app, mobile phones have to have data connectivity and the mobile's Bluetooth and location features have to be activated.
The app came as the number of coronavirus infections and deaths continues unabated.
More than 2,400 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours yesterday, taking the total number of infections to 57,563. The death toll stands at 781.
The government would ask the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to request the mobile phone operators to make the app under zero internet benefit, Palak said.
The application also provides information on what to do in case of suspected infection and on the locations of nearby health and testing units.
In case of a suspected infection, the users can check if the symptoms are compatible with those of COVID-19 patients and they will be instructed and sent to the nearest basic health unit.
Users can download the app from Google's Play Store. The app would soon be available on Apple's App Store.
The app users will get the instant message if they come in close contact with a coronavirus positive patient at a distance of less than one metre, said Maliha M Quadir, founder and managing director of Shohoz.
They would also be alerted if any of the people they came in contact with becomes positive even four days after the meeting, she said.
"This application could be used as a tool to get information from the citizens and alert them. All data will be protected. Except for a user's mobile phone number, no other personal information will be needed to download or use it," she said.
The app would use coronavirus test-related data stored with the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) to warn a user.
The alert service can help the government prepare a database that will determine the high-risk and risky zones in the country, said Anir Chowdhury, policy adviser of Access to Information (a2i) programme.
India uses the same kind of application and it has been downloaded more than 10 crore times in the first one month after its launch and the country has received a massive positive outcome, he added.
NM Ziaul Alam, senior secretary of the ICT Division, Prof Abul Kalam Azad, director general of the DGHS, and Meerjady Sabrina Flora, director of the IEDCR, were present during the virtual launch.