From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Contact Tracing Technology
Mains level : ‘Contact tracing’ and its significance to control disease outbreaks
Global technology giants Apple and Google have announced that they are partnering on developing contact tracing technology to help governments and health authorities tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic.
What did tech-giants announce?
- Contact tracing is considered essential for bringing epidemics under control and is expected to help governments in relaxing lockdown orders.
- The tech companies announced that they would build a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.
What is contact tracing?
- The WHO defines contact tracing as the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission.
- Via contact tracing, people who have come into contact with a person carrying a disease are alerted and identified.
Importance of contact tracing
- Identifying people at the onset of symptoms and promptly isolating them reduces exposure to other persons, preventing subsequent EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) infections.
- Additionally, prompt isolation and admission of the symptomatic person to a treatment facility decreases the delay to supportive treatment, which improves the likelihood of survival.
How will the new technology by Google and Apple work?
- Google and Apple are the developers of the Android and iOS platforms respectively, which together power most of the world’s smartphones.
- Both companies will release application programming interfaces (APIs) that would enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities.
- The official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores, as per the press release.
- When this step is realized, phone-based matching via official apps will help alert people if they have come in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
- For this to work, COVID-19 patients would have to declare their status to the respective apps voluntarily.
- Following this, all people whose Android/iOS smartphones were detected nearby such patients, would get notified.
- This means the user will be notified even if he/she was around a stranger who has tested positive for the disease.
Issues with contact tracing
- Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort.
- The tech giants should look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.
Note: How is our Aarogya Setu app different from the technology mentioned in the newscard?