The Financial Express

Move to develop risk-analysis database to combat COVID-19

Govt requests mobile phone users to share health information

Published: March 29, 2020 20:11:07 | Updated: March 30, 2020 09:46:00

-BSS Photo -BSS Photo

The government is using mobile phone operators’ networks to develop a risk-analysis database to stop the spread of deadly COVID-19 in Bangladesh.

To this end, a text message from the government is being sent to all mobile phone users seeking health related information to determine potential carriers of coronavirus, said officials.

Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar on Sunday said the government has formed a national taskforce comprising different stakeholders, including the health ministry, to set future measures to combat COVID-19 using technology, reports BSS.

“All 166.2 million mobile phone users in the country will get a SMS where they will be asked to make a call to *3332# free of cost to provide health information by self-reporting method,” he said.

Referring to the success of China, South Korea, Japan and other countries in containing the spread of coronavirus, Jabbar said, “If people provide information spontaneously responding to the SMS, the government can easily fix next course of action to minimise COVID-19 pandemic in the country.”

Officials familiar with the process said during the 90-second call, the users will be asked five questions such as age, whether they have breathing problems, fever or cough, come in contact with any recent returnee from abroad and come close to any COVID-19 infected people.

“All this information is personal and that is why none of these would be disclosed to or shared with anyone or organisation,” said the posts and telecommunications minister.

Making appeal to all mobile phone users for providing this information, he said: “Your (people) self-reporting response could help the government to adopt appropriate measures to overcome the deadly COVID-19 pandemic like China and other countries.”

“Like other countries, we have the technologies but we only need people’s cooperation for establishing the national platform,” added Jabbar.

Replying to a query, he said only National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre (NTMC) is assigned to deal with this matter upon the permission of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC). “Apart from NTMC, none has the scope to use this information.”

The minister said NTMC will then develop a digital map using the data and on the basis of it, the government will move for the next course of action to contain coronavirus.

In the SMS, users will also receive an URL (www.corona.gov.bd) and if anyone is interested, they can share information there.

They can also upload their health information using respective mobile apps. Interface of the Corona Info app will be shared with popular applications like GP, Robi, Banglalink, Nagad, bKash and Uber.

Robi’s Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Shahed Alam said that they have already sent “SMS” to all of its customers. “We will continue to send this SMS in phases to aware our customers for self-reporting,” he added.

BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque on Sunday said they have extended their cooperation for the job. He requested the mobile phone users to provide information through self-reporting.

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