Only one thousand using contact tracing app

By Marc Membrere 03 January 2022, 3:30PM

The Government’s new Travel Tracer App could benefit from having more users, the chief of Samoa Tourism has admitted.

Since its launch last year, there are only slightly more than 1000 people currently registered as users of the app designed to alert people if they have come into close contact with someone carrying the COVID-19 virus.

The app was a joint initiative by the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) and the Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A.). 

It is built on the privacy-preserving BlueTrace protocol developed by Singapore and was developed locally in partnership with SkyEye and the Samoa Information Technology Association (S.I.T.A.).

The app uses Bluetooth to trace close contact between users and it was revealed by Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa during the launch of the app in September that the data collected will be anonymous and encrypted and used solely by the M.O.H. for contact tracing purposes.

The Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) of the S.T.A., Faamatuainu Lenatai Suifua, told the Samoa Observer in an interview on Wednesday that there are only fewer than 1000 people using the app.

“For the tracer app we have roughly more than a thousand [that] has already signed up but we would have preferred better numbers in terms of those actually download and use the app given that so far we have COVID cases going around and the current cases in Fiji,” Faamatuainu said.

He added that it would be better if there were more people downloading the app, as it is also mandatory for anyone travelling from overseas.

“Downloading the app is one of the key criteria when they are released to the public,” he said.

He said that with over a thousand people using the app, they continue to promote and do awareness for the public to download the mobile application.

“So far with the numbers that we have it could be better, so encouraging the public to please download the app,” he said.

Faamatuainu noted that the app does not take up too much space on a phone and is free of charge.

“We have seen a lot of cases spread but this is one of the tools that help health,” he said.

One of the obstacles that cause people from not downloading the app is people think that the app will take credit from the phone but Faamatuainu reiterated its free cost and lack of privacy problems. 

He pointed to a recent scare in the centre of Apia after a person that came after an escapee from quarantine was found at a Western Union branch. Faamatuainu said that if they had downloaded the app it would have been far easier to find the numbers of those people potentially exposed to the virus. 

“In order for it to work you have to download it, and that is your contribution to the ongoing work,” he said.

“So we have to be mindful in terms of preparation because we really want it to be safe when borders open.”


By Marc Membrere 03 January 2022, 3:30PM

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