With doubts and questions revolving around the TraceTogether mobile application that was said to facilitate in COVID-19 contact tracing, it was revealed that this particular technology originated from the United States.
According to a reported released by Reuters yesterday (10 June), Singapore’s contact tracing project was apparently inspired by a 2014 US high school project that won an international prize, but there were no sponsors or investors to support further development.
Rohan Suri, who was a student at Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia, developed a prototype called kTrace with his schoolmate in light of the Ebola epidemic in Africa.
The duo appealed to medical aid organisations and the US government to bring their creation to the frontlines. However, no one was interested in their project even though they won third place for systems software at the 2015 International Science and Engineering Fair.
Things took a turn when Singapore’s GovTech approached Mr Suri regarding his contact tracing technology on 24 January. GovTech’s senior director Jason Bay invited the now 21-year-old student to support the development of the TraceTogether app.
Therefore, the current Stanford University student spent February and March volunteering on GovTech’s TraceTogether app with fellow Stanford students Nikhil Cheerla and Daniel Lee.
The students revealed that they gave Singapore a roadmap by sharing kTrace’s code and providing advice in virtual meetings on stronger privacy protections. They also collected 13 phones to help test the Bluetooth technology.
Mr Cheerla stated that Singapore was “just looking around for any way to speed up the development process”, adding that they “fit in”.
GovTech clarified that Mr Bay contacted Mr Suri “to understand his experiences and considerations in designing kTrace for Android”. It was also reported that the latter “did not commit code to TraceTogether”, nor did the agency use kTrace in the development of TraceTogether.