On the right track | Daily News

On the right track

Track the Spread project team
Track the Spread project team

As more people across the world are encouraged to work from home, televised news, social media and online forums combined can either be an enlightening or fear-mongering source of information.

With social distancing now a thing, one can only look at their phone or laptop so many times a day for accurate updates about the spread of COVID-19. Fortunately, a few tech enthusiasts are looking to make a contribution to eradicate the spread of the virus, using an app backed by data from official health organisations and medical institutes.

“The Rotary District 3220, with the support of Rotaract District 3220, initiated a project ‘Stop the Spread’. We decided to make an app that could track those who have been exposed to COVID- 19. Therefore, the Rotaract Club of University of Kelaniya thought of implementing an IT based solution which can help the Government to control covid-19,” Rotaract Club of Kelaniya University 2020/21 President Rtr Nipuna Rambukkanage explained.

He noted that he and his team pondered overt the situation of the nation and came up with what they recognized as the ‘deal solution’ – a mobile application system.

“There are two mobile apps (flutter-based solutions) which is an elite system that is supported by a web application that will work as an admin panel for the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka. Therefore there are three components in this elite software system. They are namely,

1. Mobile application for quarantined persons

2. Mobile application for public health officers

3. Web application for the Ministry of Health for data analysis.

This system can be used to support the Government to control COVID-19 by storing and analyzing details of the quarantined persons (symptoms, health status etc.), and the public health officials (PHI). PHIs can use their app to check the location of the quarantined persons and monitor their activities. Health officials who use this app will get the opportunity such as the ability to monitor quarantined people without physically visiting them, give instructions and keep in touch with them. From the quarantined persons’ perspective, the app will provide them with several benefits such as online shopping, ordering medicine, online counseling, bill payments, and online health checkups,” he elaborated.

Rambukkanage adds that before they got the idea about a COVID-19 controlling and monitoring system, the systems that were being used in Sri Lanka were capturing the data of positive covid-19 patients.

Talking about the novel features of ‘Track the Spread’ he says that users are able to can track down the locations and many other important details of the first line COVID-19 contacts, second line COVID-19 contacts, and returnees from hospitals who have recovered from COVID-19 through the system.

“Therefore, the software system which we built is very unique. It has many important features. PHIs can view a quarantine person’s medical history easily by accessing their PHI app. The PHIs too can easily find whether the quarantined person’s family members have any symptoms by accessing this system. Many unique features in this software system makes this an elite system to control COVID-19. We have received permission from the Sri Lankan health authorities to launch this software in Central Colombo to control the spread of the virus in the area,” he said.

Besides Rambukkanage the team of developers comprises of Chinthaka Kasun, Nethmi Fonseka, Rajika Upasena, Amesh Madhubhashitha Jayaweera, Ruwin Ratnayake, Kisal Ekanayake, Sahan Silva, Nipuna Ratnayake, Isuri Sasanika Gunatilake, Sahan Amarsha, Pulsara Sandeepa, Dikmadugodage Pasindu Chinthana, Hiruni Chamodika Samaranayaka, Praneeth Vithanage, Kelum Tharaka, Anushika Samarakoon, and

Thiwanka Randeni. These members worked through many sleepless nights developing the app. Due to their efforts ‘Track the Spread’ has now been nominated for the Rotary International awards as well.

“I am thankful to have such a hard working team to work with. Due to their immense courage and enthusiasm, this project has reached international level,” he enthused.

The main challenge the team faced in building ‘Track the Spread’ was in finding talented undergraduates who are reading degrees related to Computer Science. They also needed to get the green light from the Government to put this app into practice. This process demanded the team to visit the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defence, Medical Officers for Health and Public Health Inspectors. They assessed the need of this software system. “Finally we received the permission of Ministry of Health to conduct a pilot project at Central Colombo area,” he added with a note of triumph on their well deserved victory.

With their sights focused on “Disease Prevention and Treatment”, Rambukkanage notes that the team’s main objective was to build an information technology-based solution for the Ministry of Health of Sri Lanka to monitor and control COVID-19 in the country.

“We wanted to make the lives of people in quarantine easier by providing them various benefits because people in quarantine have many needs and they need constant care. Therefore, we wanted to present them a mobile application to fulfill their day-to-day needs such as banking, ordering medicine, counseling, bill payments and checking their health status daily. And the second objective was to reduce the risk of Public Health Inspectors when monitoring quarantined people. To increase the effectiveness of their service, we wanted to provide them with a mobile application to effectively do their investigations. Another objective that we had was to help the government to maintain a database of COVID-19 related data with all the relevant information which can be used to eliminate COVID-19 in Sri Lanka,” Rambukkanage said.

The team has applied for copyrights for the software system and are hoping to receive the copyrights soon.

“As per the discussion held on November 20, 2020 at the Ministry of Health, we conducted a training session and an introduction session for the MOH of Central Colombo, Dr. Dhammika Adhikariwattage and the PHIs of Central Colombo area to implement the pilot project in the ground level to track the first-line contacts and returnees from quarantine centers and hospitals. Since Dr. Adikariwattage is a fellow Rotarian and our project advisor from the very beginning, he is currently piloting the project at the central Colombo area. The system is handy in tracking the vaccinations as well. After these tests have been completed, the software system will be market ready,” he disclosed.

Hailing from Dehiwala, Rambukkanage is a past pupil of Ananda College, Colombo. He is currently reading a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science at Kelaniya University, specializing in Artificial Intelligence.

The team is planning to complete the user testing (beta testing). This is currently taking place at the central Colombo area.

“We want to see how the actual users will take in the app, and their response towards it. Thus, we are planning to carry out the testing on a selected wide area with at least 100 users for this. If there’s anyone who’d like to volunteer as a Technical-writer, developer, content creators or anyone interested in software development, they are welcome to join hands with us,” Rambukkanage said.

His advice to youths with flair for innovations is to think out of the box whenever possible.

“You can’t allow tradition to get in the way of innovation. There’s a need to respect the past, but it’s a mistake to revere your past,” he opined.