Turkish contact-tracing app to be unveiled soon

Turkish contact-tracing app to be unveiled soon


A mobile application developed by young Turkish entrepreneurs to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus will be presented to users soon, one of its developers has said.

A group of 16 technology enthusiasts developed the “Corowarner” app which allows community-driven contact tracing.

“The Corowarner app alerts you instantly and anonymously if you had close contact with an individual in a market, pharmacy or bus who tested positive for the virus,” Efe Kart, one of the project developers of the app, said.

“The app was basically designed to send a notification like ‘X days ago, you encountered a person who tested positive for COVID-19’ without revealing the patient’s identity. Then it provides the user with timely guidance by observing their current symptoms based on their ages and chronic diseases,” Kart said.

Two teams, CoroWarner and GüvendeKal! (Stay Safe), decided to unify their projects which were both shortlisted at the Coronathon Türkiye event last month.

He added that the app will provide advice based on the degree of proximity to the positive-tested individual by using an artificial intelligence-based algorithm.

“We will ask for permission to access the app user’s GPS and bluetooth data to estimate the proximity and duration of an encounter between two users - one who tested positive for the virus and the other who was at risk of being infected,” he said.

As more people use the app, the more efficient the tracing becomes, he stressed, aiming to play an important role in mitigating the spread of the disease.

“We are in contact with several municipalities and firms with 10-15,000 employees, and seeking to immediately make the app prevalent to reduce the risk of transmission,” he said.

A number of research teams have been developing such systems, and at least one has been used in Singapore.

The Apple-Google collaboration could make this easier by allowing apps to cross over the two dominant mobile systems. The companies said that their technology could enable an app’s “digital key” to monitor contacts for a 14-day period.

A smartphone system could effectively replace the lengthy “manual” tracing by interview currently handled by medical staff, said Francesco Benedetti, a research scientist on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology team working with more than 30 governments and health agencies on contact tracing.

“Doctors waste a lot of time in these interviews,” Benedetti said. A digital system is more efficient because “it doesn’t rely on people’s memory, and it can determine contacts with people who don’t know each other.”

Such a system “can achieve epidemic control if used by enough people,” Oxford University researchers wrote in Science Magazine.

Some experts suggest 60 percent adoption could help turn the tide of the pandemic, said Tina White, a researcher and co-founder of the volunteer group Covid Watch which is developing an app and is working with Oxford University scientists.

“A lot depends on messaging and how it is presented,” White said. “If people understand this is something that protects them, they will use it.”

Benedetti said a tracing app could still have a “high impact” with 40 percent adoption, but that effectiveness would depend on other safety measures implemented.