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Kenya launches KoviTrace app to curb COVID-19

By , Kenya-based correspondent
Kenya , 18 Jun 2020
Kenyan biochemist Donatus Njoroge who helped develop and introduce the KoviTrace app.
Kenyan biochemist Donatus Njoroge who helped develop and introduce the KoviTrace app.

Technology developers in Kenya have introduced a contact tracing app, KoviTrace, to help authorities trace the movement of patients who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, as well as those who’ve come into contact with these patients.

The app, which can be installed on Android and IOS phones or accessed through USSD for users without smartphones, was developed by biochemist Donatus Njoroge, IT expert Gideon Kamau, and medical doctor Jesse Gitaki.

It uses geo-sensing technology to track a patient’s location at any given time over a 14-day period from the precise moment they tested positive.

The user will need to key in the patient’s phone number and command it to trace all the persons that the patient came into contact within the stipulated time period.

“Once you install the app, it keeps track of your COVID-19 geolocations using something called Standard API to have your location and timestamp and which are kept somewhere in a database using an ID and not information that you cannot easily identify, only the system will be able to interpret it,” said Njoroge, who is also the head of innovations, intellectual property and community engagements at Mt Kenya University.

Once this is done and a health official keys in contact details of the patient, those who came into contact with the patient will receive an SMS notification with WHO advice and recommendations on how to handle the situation, including instructions on how to self-quarantine and also contacts to COVID-19 response team at the different county heads in the country.

The app only traces contacts that came close to the patient within the 14 days and stayed there for at least five minutes, according to Njoroge. “For security purposes, we have encrypted the data in a way that the information that the app is collecting is not attached to a particular person. What happens is that the information collected is attached to a unique, random ID assigned by the system which is not easily identifiable to a particular person.”

Currently authorities and health officials are relying on patients themselves to remember who they have been in contact with for the past 14 days.

If implemented and officially used, the app could position Kenya as one of several using technology solutions and innovation to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Australia also developed 'COVIDsafe' that traces a patient's contacts for the past 21 days.

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