The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said on Sunday, April 5, that it is coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) and other government agencies in the possible adoption Singapore-based app ‘TraceTogether’ as one of the potential tools in addressing the Covid-19 health crisis in the country.
TraceTogether is a community-driven contact tracing app launched on March 20, 2020. The app works by exchanging short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other app users who are within about two to five-meter proximity.
Records of encounter between app users will be stored locally in the users’ phones. If one app user tested positive for Covid-19, authorities will be able to identify other app users who were in close contact with the patient.
In his letter addressed to Singaporean ambassador Gerard Ho Wei Hong, DICT secretary Gregorio B. Honasan said that ICT-enabled tools could assist in addressing the Covid-19 situation in the Philippines, and requested more details and information about the app. In response, Ho said Singapore is willing to provide technical assistance to DICT regarding the matter.
The DICT, as a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID), said there is a need for systems to identify, screen and assist Filipinos suspected or confirmed to be infected with Covid-19. These include contact-tracing systems that will minimize, if not prevent, the local spread of the coronavirus through the use of information and communications technology.
Meanwhile, the DICT said it is working with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to create “Task Force Covid Kontra Peke”, a group tasked with preventing and reporting fake news.
The DICT’s Cybersecurity Bureau (CSB) through the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-PH) is charged with technical assistance on information sharing and analysis for law enforcement agencies, including the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“The DICT is ready and willing to lend our expertise to our law enforcement agencies to help the in the fight against the spread of the virus, and the spread of disinformation. We cannot take fake news lightly, as it threatens peace and order as well as safety of our society, especially during this time of national emergency,” said DICT assistant secretary for Digital Philippines Emmanuel Rey R. Caintic.
He also cautioned people to not fall for fake news and sent a warning to those behind the proliferation of such.
“We call on the public to be more vigilant in consuming information, especially those fronting as news. If you can, verify the source of an article and check for other related articles that would support what the first one is saying. Of course, for those who intentionally produce such materials, fake news, you will be liable to the full extent of the law,” he added.
The agency said those caught peddling fake news could be charged for violating Republic Act 10175 (Anti-Cybercrime Law), or under Section 6 (f) of Republic Act 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal As One Act), whichever is applicable.