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War on Covid-19: An app that traces whereabouts and rewards self-isolation

User's location history is tracked over 14 days and presented in a readable list that he can share with authorities; he gets coins for discipline, redeemable at food deliveries and e-commerce sites

Yuvraj Malik  |  New Delhi 

War on Covid-19: An app that traces whereabouts and rewards self-isolation
An app that will track a user’s location history over the past 14 days, with the capability to present the data in a readable list-like format

The coronovirus pandemic has brought civil society to a grinding halt. While cases in Iran and Italy have blown up, India is still managing to contain the spread. Critics say that is because enough people aren’t being tested. This is set to change as the government recently allowed more laboratories to conduct tests for Covid-19.

As new cases come to the fore, one of the prime necessities is to determine the patient’s activity over the past two weeks. The people the infected person came in contact with at the various places he or she visited are then tested for potential contamination and put on quarantine.

The problem is that one gets to know very late whether he or she is a carrier of the virus.

Nav Chatterji, a New Delhi-based technologist, has come up with a solution. He is rolling out an app that will track a user’s location history over the past 14 days, with the capability to present the data in a readable list-like format.

If found to be infected, the user can immediately inform the authorities of past whereabouts to ensure timely action. If more people start using it, tracking down people who came in contact with the infected person also becomes a lot easier.

“At airports, they let you go if you have normal body temperature and don’t display symptoms. They can now advise you to track your movement, should you later discover you have contracted covid-19.” says Chatterji, who heads technology consultancy Sansqubicle, out of Delhi.

According to the latest figures, India has reported 511 cases so far of covid-19, including 10 deaths. Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune and several other cities are now under a lock-down. State governments have shut down schools, restaurants and private offices and have advised people to practice social distancing.

Chatterji calls the app ‘Honest Herd’ as it is meant to inspire honesty in reporting covid-19 symptoms and taking precautions for the safety of the larger public. Honest Herd, which is currently in beta phase, goes just beyond tracking. It has links to health advisories and coping guides for the infected, and even a rewards systems for those is self-quarantine.

“If you are not feeling well, it will set off some triggers based on which the app will take you through some information channels on the next step,” says Chatterji.

“In case you test positive, we trace your path in the form of a list, and look at an easy way to export that list, for you to see yourself and if you want to share it with a health official or government official.”

“The other bit is incentivising users to stay at one place. We have set a boundary of 500 meters, if you stay within this you get coins which you will be able to redeem at food-delivery or e-commerce sites. Those partnerships are still being worked out,” adds Chatterji.

He adds that efforts are underway to translate the app into regional languages.

First Published: Tue, March 24 2020. 15:44 IST
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