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'Otago Polytechnic leads way with contact tracing app'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Otago Polytechnic’s tech types have developed a contact tracing app so easy to use that other organisations in the ITP sector have adopted it.

Otago Polytechnic has moved to Alert Level 2 as of today, 14 May. It will reopen its campuses for learners on Monday 18 May.

However, the return of students and staff requires the implementation of stringent and effective contact tracing protocols. Anyone on campus is required to check in and out of each building they visit, as well as keep a record of people they have met.

This process is managed via a mobile phone application (Android and IOS) developed by Otago Polytechnic’s Information Support Services team, who tested and completed the app in mid-April.

The simplicity of its user interface clearly appealed to others in the ITP sector. Several institutions have taken up Otago Polytechnic’s offer to share with them the Microsoft PowerApp based solution, which has been made open source to the sector.

"We made it available to others who hold the appropriate Microsoft 365 software licence," Steven Turnbull, Otago Polytechnic Chief Information Officer, explains.

"A person coming to our campus would open the app and select their location from a menu that comprises all our buildings, then check in to that specific site. They would then note whom they’d met or come into contact with.

"Simplicity of use is the key. The app is basically an electronic diary that records a person’s daily contacts on campus."

"The app also has a geo-fencing function, meaning that should they forget to check out of the same building, it will alert them to do so. The data comes from the app in real-time to a central secure store where we can, if required, contact everyone that has been recorded as a contact with the affected person"

"However, people need to be assured that we are not monitoring them. The data of their on-campus activity is stored, yes, but it would only be used in the event of a suspected case of COVID-19."

Megan Gibbons, Deputy Chief Executive Otago Polytechnic, says the contact tracing app is just one of a wide range of measures being put in place.

"Although we are looking forward to resuming on-campus activity, we feel a deep a responsibility to ensure the ongoing health, safety and wellbeing of staff and learners - and the wider public."

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