A Smart Idea

Asian countries are leveraging some of their best assets to fight against Coronavirus. In Hollywood movies, Asians are sometimes relegated to the stereotyped role of computer geniuses, but now technological creativity is playing an important role in efforts to curb the virus spread.

Recently, the TraceTogether application has been released on Apple store to make contact tracing more effective and ensure people that have been in contact with someone diagnosed with Coronavirus can effectively be identified and quarantined.

This application is technically elegant in the way it solves the problem of data privacy. It relies on Bluetooth signals exchanged by different devices to detect users of the application that came in contact within a typical signal propagation distance of about ten meters. If someone using the application is diagnosed with COVID-19, he or she can simply upload their data to the Ministry of Health, which will then be able to decrypt the information and begin contacting other application users who have been in close contact of the confirmed COVID-19 case.

The application does not collect location data and I believe this fact is essential to its success. In the past, governments – I am especially thinking of post 9/11 mass surveillance programs rolled out in USA – abused difficult times like this to intrude in people personal life and when this happens, often there is no way back.

As Mr Jason Bay, Senior Director of Government Digital Services at GovTech, who leads the team that developed the application explains:

“Instead of attempting to tackle the issue of contact tracing by answering the question of ‘where,’ we address contact tracing by answering the question of ‘who’,” explained Mr Bay, who led the team behind TraceTogether. “After all, you could argue that the virus doesn’t care where transmission happens; it’s only interested in whether there is a hospitable host in close contact.”

In a Facebook post on March 23, the Minister in charge of the Smart Nation Initiative said that the application will be open-sourced. This means that the software’s source code will be made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.

“We believe that making our code available to the world will enhance trust and collaboration in dealing with a global threat that does not respect boundaries, political systems or economies,” said the Minister.

Staying fit when you work from home is challenging. Since my gym has been shut down earlier this month, I intensified my home core routine. I have never done so many push-ups as in March 2020 😉

March 2020 has maybe been the most dramatic year of Italy post World War II history. We have seen things we would have never imagined and Italian have been forced to reconsider how lucky they were before the virus came to jeopardize their life. Many countries have been looking attentively at the situation in Italy to try and learn how to fight this invisible enemy. The response has not been perfect, but my personal reading is that authorities did their best given the information in their possession.

Data on Coronavirus spread released yesterday, 30th of March are as follows.

As explained yesterday, the orange and red lines are two averages of seven days of data. The orange averages new Coronavirus cases, while the red represents cases decrease as people heal or unfortunately die. The green line is the difference of the two. The month of March ends with a very promising sign. The green line is now looking clearly downwards and this makes me hope that, in about 10 days from now, the number of persons infected with Coronavirus in Italy will start to decrease.


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