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In fight against COVID-19, Yakubu develops Malaysia-type contact tracing app

Olakunle Yakubu, a tech entrepreneur, has developed Stay-Safe.NG— a contact-tracing app that helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Yakubu, founder of ITD Africa, an NGO that focuses on building IT infrastructures in Africa, was inspired to develop the app to address the problem associated with contact tracing in the country.

“We followed the trend of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we were also figuring out ways to apply IT technology through data analysis to the problem of contact tracing,” he says.

“One of the solutions is to adopt a cloud-based visitor registers which act as a logbook for people’s movement,” he further says.

He explains that since the virus cannot spread without the movement of people, the only way to track the virus is to track individual movements.

The young entrepreneur says the Stay –Safe.NG app works when users of the app register. By so doing, their check-in time is automatically registered on the cloud-based database, and backward tracing can be done if the individual gets tested positive for the virus.

“We can easily do what we call backward tracing if anyone tests positive for coronavirus. It can determine the names and contacts of people that have been exposed to the virus through contact with this new case,” he says.

“For example, if Mr. A gets on a flight from Abuja to Lagos and tests positive for COVID-19 a few days later, everyone on that flight will receive an SMS notification informing them that they have been exposed to the virus,” he explains.

He adds that with the Stay-Safe.NG, the government can keep the economy functioning at an optimal rate and keep track of the spread of the virus simultaneously.
Speaking on how other countries are using technology to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, he says Malaysia is making use of three different QR-based applications to keep track of their infections, and this has led to a sharp decline in new infections.

He notes that the QR-based applications is similar to the Stay-Safe.NG application developed by his firm, adding that Thailand, South Korea, and several European countries are also deploying a similar app to contain the virus.

Commenting on strategies the business has adapted to survive the pandemic, the computer scientist says the virus outbreak has made his business move most of its processes online.

“We were already having several online training sessions before the pandemic. But the virus has made it easy for us to fully make use of opportunities provided by group meeting programs like zoom and google meet,” he says.

He points out that his business plans to be a pan – African free solutions provider, supporting several countries and giving fact-based advice on how to apply data analysis to real-life problems experienced on the continent.

On some of the challenges confronting his business, Olakunle says lack of unacceptability by the government and its agencies remains the major problem.

“Government leaders tend to think data analysis will expose their flaws. This is why we will continue training them so we can change this misconception,” he notes.

“We need them to understand that a problem is 50 percent solved when you collect and analyse data linked to it,” he adds.

He urges the government at all levels to ensure that its employees and processes adopt technology in the 21st century.

In evaluating the country’s tech industry, he says it has the potential to transform the economy owing to its multiplier effects on other sectors.

He notes that the potential in the IT industry can be fully harnessed when the government starts adopting the right IT systems.

On his advice to other entrepreneurs, he says, “Identify your challenges and try to discover the opportunities they present. Our challenges sometimes can become a gold-mine.”

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