2020/07/07 By MOST GASE
Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, countries around the world have worked relentlessly to contain the spread through joint effort with different industries. In Thailand, a perfect example of government-academia collaboration is observed in the partnerships of National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) along with other national institutions on the development of Traffy Fondue and DDC-Care, two leading epidemic prevention mobile apps.
Last year, we had the honor to invite Dr. Narong Sirilertworakul, the President of NSTDA, to attend our 2019 Global Science & Technology Leaders Forum, and enhanced the science and technology partnership between Thailand and Taiwan. Amid the pandemic, we once again invited the representatives of NSTDA’s R&D teams of Traffy Fondue and DDC-Care to share their insights about the most downloaded prevention apps in the country. Full interview below:
Traffy Fondue: LINE Chatbot to Report and Trace People from Out-of-Town
Dr. Wasan Pattara-atikom
Wasan Pattara-atikom is currently the Head of the Intelligent Transportation Systems Laboratory and Principal Researcher at NECTEC. He is responsible for the Traffic Information Dissemination Project (Traffy), which was selected as an outstanding project by the National Science and Technology Development Agency and the Ministry of Science and Technology of Thailand in 2008 and 2009.
The "Traffy Fondue" app developed by your organization was originally a platform for the public to report urban development/infrastructure problems. How did the team apply this app to COVID-19 epidemic prevention?
Originally Traffy Fondue was developed for citizen to participate on reporting urban city problems, such as broken streetlights and traffic accidents. With the COVID-19 outbreak, identifying high-risk individuals became crucial in terms of epidemic prevention. Therefore, our team was requested by the government to add the additional identification feature to the existing platform.
With this chatbot app, local residents can take a picture of the people coming from other areas and village and send it to the chatbot, and the system will retrieve the person’s information. Once the information is received, the village chief will register the person and monitor his/her movement. The other feature of the app is for people from high risk area to register themselves and report to the government.
It is the policy from the Ministry of Interior to follow to report the location and personal information. Since the new feature was introduced, there were 220 reported cases in the first two months. To date, there are more than 13,000 people registered in total.
Is there any concern regard personal data security? How to build public trust for people to willing to use this app?
We recommend the users not to take picture of the people, but only the picture of the house and location. The information being reported remains secured between the user and the government.
There are several ways to encourage people to use this app. First, offline promotion by the official government order. At the beginning of the outbreak, the Secretary of the Ministry of Interior sent out a letter stating the official commend for every district in Thailand to use the Traffy Fondue app to report high-risk individuals. Second way is to promote the app through online social media platforms. Useful inforgraphic with easy to understand language were created for general public to share on their own channels.
▲Traffy Fondue Infographic attracts users via social media promotion. (Source: Taffy Fondue Official Facebook, 2020)
DDC-Care: Monitor and Assess Health Record of People at Risk of Contracting COVID-19
Dr. Ananlada Chotimongkol
Ananlada Chotimongkol received her Master degree and Ph.D. in Language and Information Technologies from Carnegie Mellon University, USA. She currently works at Assistive Technology and Medical Devices Research Center, a focus research center under NSTDA, where she conducts research on accessibility and assistive technologies. She recently received the 'L'Oréal Thailand For Women in Science Special Fellowships for COVID-19' for her work on DDC-Care.
Dr. Naiyana Sahavechaphan
Naiyana Sahavechaphan has worked at National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC) under NSDTA for more than 20 years and lead several high impact projects. She has managed and conducted research in the area of data stream collection, management, analytics and visualization. She has expertise in Software Engineering, Database Design, Data Integration, Complex Event Processing, Event-driven Architecture and Data Stream Management.
The institution has used "DDC-Care" to curb the spread of the epidemic. What inspired you to develop such App?
Chotimongkol: DDC-Care consists of two main parts, application and data visualization. On the application perspective, the inspiration of our app came from the Department of Disease Control (DDC) of Thailand. Since the government started to implement the 14-day quarantine rules, there have been multiple cases where people broke the instructions by not staying at home. To align with the policy for the people arriving into the country to report their health information and to keep track of the quarantine individuals, our team started to develop the DDC-Care app at the beginning of March.
Sahavechaphan: To me, I and my team have worked with DDC since 2015. Here, we have developed TanRabad to empower public health officials for the prevention and control of Aedes-borne diseases. Once covid-19 has come, we have discussion among ourselves which topics we should implement and extend TanRabad. During March, NSTDA formed the DDC-Care Team. According to our experience and intention, we have then joined the DDC-Care team and been responsible for the dashboard part.
▲DDC-Care is an app for monitoring and assessing health of individual at risk of COVID-19. (Source: National Science and Technology Development Agency, 2020.)
People under quarantine must upload their health status to DDC-Care daily. How do you secure the personal data safety of the users?
Sahavechaphan: We have restricted data access in order to secure personal data. Users of DDC-Care have to register for their accounts and get the approval by the DDC officials. Users can later login the system and then monitor appropriate cases. As per the data access control, we have relied on an attribute-based policy with respect to area-based and hospital-based aspects. For example, users who work for the central office of DDC can view the information of people under quarantine throughout Thailand. On the other hand, users who work with the regional offices can only see the information of people whose residences are located in provinces under responsibility. For the users who are medical officials at the hospitals, they can access the data of people who are under quarantined in the area, and being assigned for quarantine by their hospitals.
Beside this, we have also protected the data leakage by performing data encryption at the server side and data decryption at the web client side.