This past week the national Department of Health (DoH) launched a COVID Alert SA App – in partnership with Discovery – to strengthen the existing contact tracing methods to help break the transmission of COVID-19 as South Africa seeks to prevent a resurgence of cases since the easing of restrictions to level two. Vodacom has zero-rated this App in a bid to reduce barriers of access and help government in its fight to halt the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
This COVID Alert SA App is South Africa’s free exposure notification tool that lets people know when they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. It helps to make contact tracing happen quickly and efficiently using Bluetooth contact tracing technology, which simply tracks close contact (proximity) between smartphones, and not the actual locations of the smartphones.
Customers on the Vodacom network will be able to download the App free of charge via Vodacom’s ConnectU platform. ConnectU is a zero-rated platform that provides content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services free of charge. The platform is aimed at the Prepaid market, especially customers who are simply not able to afford day-to-day internet access. To access ConnectU, visit connectu.vodacom.co.za, FREE from a Vodacom SIM. For ease of access, the app will also be linked to My Vodacom app.
Takalani Netshitenzhe, Director for External Affairs for Vodacom South Africa, said: “Working with government and other important stakeholders as part of our social contract, Vodacom remains committed to finding innovative ways to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. It is becoming clear that in order to prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions in our country, big corporates such as Vodacom ought to be responsive in this environment and use its own resources and core capabilities to help government combat the pandemic. By zero-rating the site on our network, we are minimising barriers of access to communication for South Africans whilst at the same time promoting health and safety.”
COVID Alert SA uses simple communication channels to allow citizens to screen for COVID-19, support those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and anonymously alert people who may have been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. It is available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Once users have downloaded and installed the App, it runs in the background. Bluetooth and notifications must be enabled for the App to work and users need to have access to a mobile or Wi-Fi network to send and receive exposure alerts. The App uses Bluetooth signals to exchange ‘random codes’ (random numbers that change every so often) with other COVID Alerts SA app users. This happens when their smartphones are within two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes. At no stage is the identity and location of the device users required for this exchange to happen. This is to protect the privacy of users.
When close contact App users receive the exposure notification, they also receive information on what to do next to self-quarantine, and to optimise their health and wellbeing.