Singapore developed a contact tracing app taking inspiration from the App of a high-school techie

Countries around the world are making contact tracing apps amid the global Corona pandemic. Singapore recently launched an app taking into consideration the new system launched in the country, which is inspired by an app made by a high school student as a project. 

Rohan Suri, an alumnus of Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia, created an app during the widespread Ebola in Western Africa. It started as a high school project back then, and Suri and his classmate Claire Scoggins won the International Prize for the App, but there were no buyers at that time. 

Suri even used the App to tell his mother to pick him up 7 minutes before reaching the bus stand. When he found out about the shortage of staff in Africa during Ebola epidemic, he stated, “I got really interested in basically automating a lot of these contact tracing efforts,”

kTrace even won 3rd prize as systems software in the International Science and Engineering Fair. The developers appealed medical and U.S. organizations to promote the App, but there were no takers of the App, it languished. 

However, the future of the languished App changed on 24th Jan when Suri got an email from Jason Bay, a Stanford alum and senior director at Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech). Jason’s team wanted to develop an app to curb Coronavirus and found kTrace online. Suri worked with his team on GovTech’s TraceTogether App alongside fellow Stanford students Nikhil Cheerla and Daniel Lee.

The trio gave a roadmap to Singapore and shared kTrace codes and tested the technology on Smartphones. The App can trace the contacts using Bluetooth Technology. According to Cheeerla,” Singapore was just looking around for any way to speed up the development process, and we fit in.”

On the contrary, the Agency stated they contacted Suri, “to understand his experiences and considerations in designing kTrace for Android.” But Suri “did not commit code to TraceTogether, nor did (GovTech) use kTrace in the development of TraceTogether.”

Currently, Suri is working on his third App, “ZERO,” which is targeted for U.S. cities. When Suri’s friend got to know, he was making another app. About his involvement in TraceTogether, which is popular in Singapore, he introduced him to various investors in the U.S. 

Suri stated, “You need a strategy that goes hyperlocal, and that’s what Zero is doing.” Suri’s App, “ZERO,” was launched last week for iPhones and soon available for contact tracing.