Rwanda opts for digital tools in Covid-19 contact tracing

Source: Moses K. Gahigi, The East African l May 2, 2020

Rwanda has opted to use digital tools in coronavirus contact tracing.

Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (Rura) has assembled a team using phone data profiles trace people who had contacts with Covid-19 patients.

According to Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, director general of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), contact tracing remains a priority to speed up testing for Covid-19.

“We use an interactive system that sends messages, video calls when needed and also use drones to pass messages. Many other IT solutions are being introduced and we will inform you as we move forward,” said Dr Nsanzimana.

It is understood that when someone tests positive of Covid-19, phone data profiles are used to retrieve data provided by the closest transmission towers to track their movement.

The team tracks other phones that came in close proximity with the said person’s phone, using movement analytics, and from this the team does a deeper data analysis and the information obtained helps the Covid-19 command centre to trace the people and contact them for testing.

This has worked so far because most of those who tested positive had smart phones, and most people they got in contact with also had smart phones, which made it easier, but it leaves a possibility that contacts without smart phones were missed.

It is reported that this method was opted for because it had been difficult to fully rely on the information provided by those who tested positive.

Technological tools have also been used to monitor and geo-fence the people in localised isolation centres, like hotels, so they don’t leave their areas of confinement.

The data obtained from digital tools has also helped in informing law enforcement agencies of areas of concentration of people who are violating social distancing rules.

Rwanda has so far tested more than 30,000 people, recording 225 positive cases and 98 recoveries as of Wednesday.
Innocent Muhizi, chief executive of Rwanda Information Society Authority said the team has used different technologies to help in Covid-19 response.