Singapore

Private sector developers are welcome to improve TraceTogether app

If private sector developers want to tinker with the building blocks of the contact tracing app TraceTogether, or can come up with innovative ways to popularise it, they will be encouraged to do so.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said: "If someone can come to us now and say, 'Hey, I can make it work on something which people are more likely to use,' I will happily say, 'Please, take it, create something, submit it to us.'"

If it meets the Government's security and privacy conditions, the invention can be part of the TraceTogether ecosystem, he added.

The building blocks of the app have been available for free since April.

Publishing TraceTogether's source code helps other nations develop their own apps quickly without needing to start from scratch. Plus, developers can report any bugs in the app for fixing.

More importantly, the community can scrutinise the app, and citizens can find out for themselves if it can be used to spy on them.

"What you see is what you get. If we tell you we're not tracking your location, you can see we're not tracking your location," said Dr Balakrishnan, who is also Foreign Minister.

Contact tracing apps estimate the distance between users and the duration of their encounters based on the Bluetooth signal strength between nearby devices.

It is a quicker way to identify the close contacts of Covid-19 patients, than through interviews, for follow-up actions such as quarantine or isolation.

For such apps to be effective, at least three-quarters of the population need to be users. Singapore is still 2.2 million people shy of this benchmark, with just two million TraceTogether users.

Singapore will be giving residents a small gadget dubbed the TraceTogether Token.

It says this will be more inclusive as people without a phone or a new smartphone can participate in digital contact tracing.

The first batch of 300,000 TraceTogether Tokens is being produced and will be issued later this month. - IRENE THAM

Technology