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Connected Government: Singapore mobilising citizens in contact tracing efforts

Singapore Government has launched a contact-tracing smartphone app to enable the relevant authorities to identify and trace those who have been in contact with people who have been infected with COVID-19 as part of a nationwide effort to fight the spread of the disease.

The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the launch of a mobile app called TraceTogether, to help the government with the current contact tracing efforts in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Since the Coronavirus outbreak, the Singapore Government have worked tirelessly to ensure that the infected are isolated, contained and all contacts they may have made in recent days prior to and during infection are track and traced.

The Ministry of Health is overall in charge of contact tracing operations in Singapore and the police are called in to help in some cases. Where the details of activity or movements of a patient are incomplete or further verification is required, the police will come then support MOH in these investigative circumstances. Sometimes details are not easy to recall when the patient is very unwell and have difficulty remembering all previous activity.

App will help the contact tracing process

This is where the app can help with the contact tracing process and enables contact tracers to inform TraceTogether users who are close contacts of COVID-19 cases more quickly. This enables users to take the necessary action sooner, such as monitoring their own health closely for signs of flu-like symptoms.

The Government have outlined 3 ways that the app will help:

If someone has had close contact with a COVID-19 case, TraceTogether helps contact tracers call potentially infected cases more quickly.

Being contacted earlier allows to better protect those that have been exposed to the virus and helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.

TraceTogether makes it faster to complete contact tracing on a national level. When more people use the app, it will be able to provide a more detailed landscape and enable the government to protect citizens better.

TraceTogether works by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other  TraceTogether users in close proximity. Records are stored locally on each user’s phone. If a user is interviewed by MOH as part of the contact tracing efforts, they can consent to their TraceTogether data being sent to MOH.

App respects Data Privacy 

TraceTogether does not access a user’s personal details or contacts from their phone. It uses Bluetooth data only to establish a contact and does not store information about where the contact happened. The data is not uploaded to the government. All data collected is stored locally on their phone and is encrypted.

If a person is confirmed to have COVID-19, the government will then ask them to upload the data to help contact tracing of their close contacts.

Using Technology to connect with and empower citizens

The COVID-19 spread in Singapore has allowed both the government and app developers to harness technology as part of the response. This shows how government and citizen interaction can help beat this virus more efficiently and effectively if people get involved. It is also another way of bringing the nation together to work collectively to protect its people and country.

It also highlights one of the many ways the government is using technology to connect with its citizens digitally and empowering them to beat this virus together.

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