Smartphone-tracking could help Australia ease lockdowns and fight a second wave of coronavirus, experts say, amid reports its development is underway.
Smartphone-tracking could help Australia ease lockdowns and fight a second wave of coronavirus, experts say, amid reports its development is underway.

Phone tracking may ease virus lockdown

The race to develop a smartphone-tracking app to fight COVID-19 in Australia appears to be accelerating, with the Government's Digital Transformation Agency embarking on a hiring spree to create a "key digital product" this month.

And experts have welcomed the move, saying tech-savvy Australians would be well placed to use the technology, and it could help ease lockdowns and prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Reports the Federal Government was developing a way to track smartphones to fight coronavirus emerged early this week when Vodafone revealed it "provided, on request, aggregated network information" to the Federal and NSW Governments.

The Digital Transformation Agency then advertised eight new roles at its online marketplace to create what it described as "a key digital product".

The Digital Transformation Agency is embarking on a hiring spree for what could be a new digital platform to fight COVID-19.
The Digital Transformation Agency is embarking on a hiring spree for what could be a new digital platform to fight COVID-19.

The roles, to begin on April 20, include a private officer, legal and policy officer, service designer, software developer, and user researchers that would "work with data centre and telecommunications" firms on a "whole-of-government initiative".

A Department spokesman said he was unable to reveal details of the project during the hiring process.

An Australian smartphone-tracking app would not be without precedent, as 22 countries are using smartphone data to track the spread of coronavirus so far.

Kearney partner Anshuman Sengar told News Corp that Australia was particularly well placed to benefit from the technology, given its high levels of smartphone ownership.

The Australian Government is recruiting for what could be a digital application to fight coronavirus after several experts have called for development of the technology.
The Australian Government is recruiting for what could be a digital application to fight coronavirus after several experts have called for development of the technology.

He said phone-tracking initiatives could be used to alert people when they had been near a person diagnosed with COVID-19 and ask them to quarantine themselves, or direct medical resources to where they were needed most.

"When you know an individual has been infected, by tracking their movements it would be possible to say which geographies were at higher risk of infections," he said.

"Government organisations could go harder on lockdown measures in those specific areas and, most importantly, deploy medical resources like testing kits there."

Mr Sengar said overseas experiences showed technology of this kind could "be deployed within three to four weeks" and could also be used to ease social restrictions and prevent a second wave of the virus by locking down smaller areas of the country.

"Australia, as an economy and society, is very aware and very technologically ahead of the world so this is a way to use that advantage," he said.

Originally published as Phone tracking may ease virus lockdown


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