Telkom has announced a new partnership with Samsung and government to develop a novel track and trace solution to identify people who may have contracted Covid-19.

The track and trace system is being developed alongside the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and takes account of South Africa’s unique circumstances which include high-income inequality, poverty and overcrowding, the group said.

“The track and trace system collates multiple data sources such as GIS (geographic information system mapping) to track an infected person’s exposure and who they may have unknowingly exposed to the virus to,” it said.

“This reduces the current reliance on the patient’s own recollections of who they may have exposed unknowingly and enables the CSIR to contact people who were in the same proximity as the patient.”

In certain communities, the Department of Health will be using trackers to trace primary contacts and ensure testing for secondary contacts. Telkom has partnered with Samsung to distribute 1,500 handsets to trackers across the country.

The system will integrate the information collected by the trackers, Telkom said.

“At Telkom we are deeply concerned about what the spread of this pandemic may mean for ordinary South Africans and for the already overstretched health sector.

“We are privileged to be able to contribute to this solution which we believe will help to significantly contain the spread of new infections,” said Telkom group chief executive Sipho Maseko.

Regulations 

Telkom’s announcement comes after the minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, published regulations that require network operators to provide location data to help the government track the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

“The industry collectively has agreed to provide data analytics services in order to help government,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

“This was to help inform the Department of Health with estimates of how many people are infected in a particular area, and “to look at the individuals that are affected,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

Vodacom has told MyBroadband that its understanding of the Minister’s data information request is for high-level aggregated data on how people are moving to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

“This does not include personal information or information that identifies a specific individual,” stated Vodacom.

“The aggregate information is to be able to see how the population is moving as a whole and does not include any personalised records or even individual records.”

This data would show how many people moved from one area to another over a relatively long period. An area is also quite a big geographical region – at best the footprint of a base station.

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