Tracking & Tracing – The Next Frontier in the Fight Against COVID 19

South Africa is stepping up the fight against COVID-19 with a new track and trace solution for the country’s unique circumstances, developed by Telkom.

President Ramaphosa on Monday announced that South Africa would be deploying 10 000 field workers to expand testing efforts in a bid to slow the spread of the disease.

The Telkom team has been working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop a novel track and trace solution to identify people who may have contracted COVID-19. The track and trace system is in line with global best practice promoted by the World Health Organisation, and also takes account of South Africa’s unique circumstances which include high income inequality, poverty and overcrowding.

“At Telkom we are deeply concerned about what the spread of this pandemic may mean for ordinary South Africans and for the already overstretched health sector. We are privileged to be able to contribute to this solution which we believe will help to significantly contain the spread of new infections,” said Telkom Group Chief Executive Sipho Maseko.

The track and trace system collates multiple data sources such as GIS to track an infected person’s exposure and who they may have unknowingly exposed to the virus to. This reduces the current reliance on the patient’s own recollections of who they may have exposed unknowingly and enables the CSIR to contact people who were in the same proximity as the patient. 

In certain communities, the Department of Health will be using trackers to trace primary contacts and ensure testing for secondary contacts. Telkom has partnered with Samsung to distribute 1 500 handsets to trackers across the country. The system will integrate the information collected by the trackers.

“What we face is a generation-defining moment, a challenge unlike any other. However, our belief in Africa and its people remains steadfast and strong. I know, working together, we can and we will rise to this challenge,” said CEO & President of Samsung Africa, Sung Yoon.

The successful development of this novel track and trace system is part of Telkom’s broader support in the fight against the spread of the pandemic in South Africa. Telkom supports the government COVID 19 call centre and is supporting primary healthcare workers in partnership with the Red Cross.