The Ministry of Communications (MoC) has re-launched an updated version of Ghana COVID-19 Symptoms Tracker App, after it was heavily and widely criticized shortly after the maiden launch on Easter Monday this year.
The App was intended to be government’s response to use technology to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, but it was launched with some flaws, and tech experts called it out for those shortcomings.
Some of the flaws were its inability to verify the details of users, and the fact that government claimed it was available in Android and Apple App stores and yet people could not find it there.
Again, it was launched with a big virtual concert, which was also criticized as a waste of taxpayer money to launch an App with such flaws.
But the Minister of Communications, Ursula Owusu Ekuful noted then that, in spite of the criticisms, the App served a useful purpose as some 16,000 plus downloads within a short time, helped in the tracing of about a 100 potential COVID-19 cases.
At the relaunch of the updated App, she emphasized that “through user downloads of the app, the Ghana Health Service was able to work faster and efficiently with the additional information from the data entered into the app.”
She said feedback from the first launch of the GH COVID-19 Tracker App in April, 2020 has been great, indicating the widespread acceptance and usage of the app and has also necessitated an upgrade with enhanced features to deliver better and more user-friendly services.
The updated features of the App therefore include – Symptoms Checker, Emergency helplines, Covid-19 FAQs and Latest Health Expert Advice, Self-Quarantine Registration, Events and Venue Management, Live Updates on COVID cases and Heat Maps To show live nearby hotspots.
The Minister said the update of the App was view of the President’s easing of restrictions on movement and the opening up of airport to travelers, to ensure Ghana is ready to manage the pandemic better under the new circumstances.
“With the gradual easing of restrictions on conferences, exhibitions, conventions and other social gatherings extreme care must be taken to minimize the risk of a second wave of infections and few mechanisms offer us the capabilities to balance these delicate competing interests of stemming disease spread whilst also restoring our socioeconomic lives to normalcy like technology, especially digital technology,” she said.
She said the government strategy of using a multi-stage COVID 19 recovery plan based on science and data requires the deployment and use of digital technology and innovation to restore every sector of the Ghanaian economy to normalcy.
According to her, government is leveraging on existing digital technology and applications, in addition to novel systems, to create a digital shield with the objective of transforming the COVID19 pandemic from a crisis to an opportunity using technology.
“Under this re-launched platform healthcare staff will be able to contact patients and track movement of COVID 19 live cases,” the minister said, adding that the new platform can also alert users on moving out of allowed areas, report case breaches to the authorities and push notifications to bulk users among others,” she said.
She said the additional features was therefore to ensure GH COVID 19 Tracker becomes an integrated application for tracking symptoms, contact tracing and quarantine management to enable us open the economy even more and safely too.
“The GH COVID 19 Tracker is based on the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines and it is continuously updated to reflect current COVID 19 protocols,” the Minister said.
According to the Minister, in addition to the updated App, the government is also piloting the African Union (AU) platform PANABIOS (www.panabios.org) to leverage its digital infrastructure in this pioneering efforts.
She was proud to say that Ghana has been selected as the pioneer country for the deployment of the PanaBIOS platform, an initiative under the AU Open Corridors Initiative and the Africa CDC’s Saving Lives, Economies and Livelihoods program.
The Minister said during the just ended voter registration exercise, the Electoral Commission even used those platforms to reduce the intensity of congestion and facilitate social distancing after the initial hiccups.
She is confident that the updated GhCOVID19 Tracker app and PanaBios will ensure a unified, national, digital strategy to manage our nation’s response to COVID-19 through technology.