With people constantly concerned about the risk of contracting COVID-19 or possibly passing it on to the more vulnerable members of their families, knowing if you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive can be a big stress alleviator. Contact tracing can also help people take responsibility if the worst case scenario is confirmed, resulting in self-isolation and seeking treatment before things get worse. Thankfully, South Africa now has an app of its own to help with this process.
Developed in partnership with the government, the COVID Alert SA app makes use of Bluetooth to identify other phones that have also had the program installed, and keep a record of them for two weeks. Should a person test positive during this period, the app would then be able to notify everyone who has been in contact with that person to self-isolate and possibly seek treatment if they are showing symptoms.
It’s not a perfect solution, especially given the inconsistency around what constitutes suitable Bluetooth distance (though 10m is normally enough and far exceeds the recommended 1.5m) but I think it is a good one for alerting people who may have come into contact with a person who has had the virus. In order for it to be effective though it means as many people as possible need to download the app (on both Android and iOS). So, if you haven’t already, do so. The app does not capture any personal details (unless you test positive, in which case it does request your birth date), but attaches a unique code to your smartphone and does not keep informing beyond a two-week period, so it is secure to use from a data perspective.
It is also quite small, taking up only 2.1MB on Android phones and 5MB on iOS. It’s light on data, though it could be quite a battery drainer given that it will require Bluetooth to be permanently switched on and active. A small price to pay though for possibly protecting those around you and saving a life.
Last Updated: September 2, 2020