11th May 2020, Kathmandu
Government of Nepal Has Launched ‘COVID NP’ App to Trace Coronavirus Infected. The government has announced the launch of the COVID NP app to track and trace the coronavirus infected. Despite a long lockdown, the government aims to control the growing number of corona infections with this tracing app.
Ishwar Pokharel, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense unveiled the app on Saturday at the CCMC Operations Center in the camp set up for epidemic prevention and control.
Earlier on April 9, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had announced the development and use of this tracking app.
This app developed by iMark Pvt. Ltd. is already available to download on the Play Store. However, it will make its entrance on the App Store in a few days. Along with the mobile app, the COVID NP web application is also now available.
As mentioned in the previous article, the app’s self COVID-19 test asks a series of questions to the users. Based on the answers, the user can be divided into three categories: Green, Yellow, and Red.
Asgar Ali, IT adviser to the Prime Minister, said the app was ready to be used in other countries and appealed to everyone to use it. He expressed confidence that the government would succeed in controlling the infection in the same way as in Korea, and that the daily life would become easier if everyone used the COVID NP app correctly.
Let’s hear more about the app from the man himself.
Interview With Asgar Ali – IT Consultant to the Prime Minister
Q. What do you mean by using the app ‘correctly’ and how does this app help to fight the COVID-19 outbreak?
A: Firstly, all apps are optional and people have a choice of using them. Also, some people can enter false data which is out of our control and we can’t enforce a measure of strictness against this. The COVIDNP app asks a series of questions to determine red, yellow, or green zone for the users.
If users use the app responsibly and answer the questions genuinely, we will have a better chance of preventing the infection. Nations like Nepal and India don’t have other options besides lockdown to control the virus spread. However, this tracing app can change that if the general public chooses to use this app seriously.
We have a good example of South Korea where using tracing apps, there was no need for imposing a lockdown. The citizens used the tracing app seriously and tackled the spread of the virus. People need to start taking technology seriously as it is the savior that can help us fight against such a crisis.
Q. How does the application operate with access to the user’s location and Bluetooth?
A: The location is a vital part while Bluetooth is optional. However, the effectiveness of the application is only as good as its use by the general public. But we recommend turning Bluetooth on at all times since the app notifies you in case an infected person is in your proximity.
Q. This app requires turning Bluetooth and Location Services on at all times, so how does it affect the smartphone battery?
A: Personally, I don’t find a significant impact of this app on my smartphone’s battery usage. In my knowledge, this app has a one-minute cycle. (This means the app refreshes every one minute)
Q. Again, with the Bluetooth and Location Services turned on, how secure is my smartphone, and how does the app manage data privacy?
A: Actually, I would recommend you to talk to one of the developers of the app, Mr. Pioneer Khadka, who has voluntarily given one month of his time to develop this app. He will explain the technical aspects better than me. [Stay tuned to read what Pioneer Khadka has to say]
Q. Wouldn’t it be better to have a single integrated dashboard for information sharing, infection updates, and contact tracing rather than having so many apps already?
A: As a matter of fact, one of the major purposes of developing this app is to integrate all the features. This app was launched by the Crisis Management Center (CCMC). The IT wing of the CCMC also moved forward with the objective to integrate the data and features of all apps launched until now.
In a way, COVIDNP is an integrated system of the apps released in the past with more features of its own. Previous apps were only informative while this one is more interactive as well.
That’s all from Mr. Asgar Ali. Now let’s look at how Pioneer Khadka reflected on the technical aspect of the app.
“This app keeps running on background for contact tracing. It can’t function without running on background and we have developed this app considering the battery consumption as well. Also, Bluetooth needs to be turned and there’s no way around it.
The app allows contact tracing but if Bluetooth is off, it only facilitates community tracing. The app stores data regarding location (latitude and longitude), and person’s information if they are in the red and orange zones. This allows the system to notify other people using this app in the proximity of 10ft to maintain distance from an infected person.
However, the app doesn’t reveal any information about the infected person (or the one in the red or orange zone. The next phase is that the person in the warning zone receives a call from our call center. If that person tests positive, then only the data entry process begins and the body authorized by the government can handle the data depending on their roles.
The data is 100% secure and we don’t share the personal information of users with anyone. No one can know the location history or personal information of the infected person. It can only be accessed by the government under the legal procedure in the event of need.”
Click here to download the COVID NP app from the Google Play Store. Mr. Khadka also adds that he is expecting the app to release in iOS within a couple of days. Additional updates and plans will be prepared depending on the usage of the app.
The app already has 1000+ downloads in the Play Store. Based on the conversation with Asgar Ali and Pioneer Khadka, the app does sound like an effective alternative to the lockdown. The general public has a major role in providing genuine information to this app for it to become a success.
So, we request the users to use it correctly and responsibly. If other countries can fight the virus with a contact tracing app, we can too.
Let’s trust and support technology as the means to stop the virus spread and fight the pandemic.