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These apps are stalking you—for the greater good

How smartphones are helping keep the virus in check

Thanks to smartphones and social media, we can spend hours joking about how Big Tech has been having an easy time keeping tabs on each one of us, and being able to predict with alarming accuracy what we might have a craving for hours before we pull up the FoodPanda app. But like any other technological advancement since the invention of the wheel,  there’s nothing inherently bad about new things—it’s how we use it.

That’s a conversation for another day, though. What people should be talking about now is the fact that, after slow going over the last few months, the use  of contact tracing apps has been on the rise. It’s a decision that the Philippines must consider and deliberate on, what with the country seeing a spike in new cases, no thanks to people growing careless in following health protocols.

Unfortunately, the holiday season has led to people ignoring social distancing as they crowd leisure centers and transport terminals to get home to their loved ones for Christmas, giving ample opportunity for the virus to mutate. Aside from established protocols of social distancing, wearing masks and face shields properly and practicing good hygiene, using a contact tracing app is a good way to keep the virus at bay, as it identifies those who may need to be isolated after exposure.

Available apps

The Philippine government already mandates the use of the StaySafe.ph app for local and national-level agencies, which has been widely adopted in many cities and municipalities:.

The Department of Health (DOH) also has its own database simply called the “COVID-19 Tracker”, which amasses reports from across the country and releases data drops to help people keep abreast of developments in cases. 

TanodCOVID is another platform spearheaded by Globe Telecommunications in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) that allows local government units to report trends reported via constituents over SMS to help delineate cases. 

Earlier in the year Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued an order for all Cebuanos to install the WeTrace app developed by a DOST graduate in order to expedite and aid contact tracing in the area. 

On an international level, Apple and Google have set their differences aside to work on an Exposure Notification infrastructure that, while not an app in and of itself, allows for the easy development of contact tracing programs with baked-in security and privacy features to  prevent information from being misused. There are efforts too to develop a multitude of other contact tracing apps, among them the ENDCoV app from the graduate students of  the Asian Institute of Management that presents real-time data down to the barangay level.

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