Until we get a vaccine, it looks like COVID-19 will continue to devastate. What I am most surprised by is:

Where is Rapid App-based Contact Tracing?!

EXPECTED SOLUTION:

  • Once someone is infected, everyone who is several degrees from them are notified.
  • Clusters of people take precautionary measures: stop going out, get tested, etc.
  • Infection rates go down to a point where communities clear the infection out.

OBSERVED:

Apple and Google implemented contact tracing into our phones, but it seems to have three problems:

  1. Needs government approval to be turned on. I am in Massachusetts and it’s still not on. Not sure why.
  2. Notifications go out only to your first degree.
  3. No context: no visibility into community / geography

Here is Google’s explanation of the system.

SOLUTION:

I looked at what app options are available and came across one that may work: https://novid.org. I reached out to the founder, Po-Shen Loh, who is a mathematician at Carnegie Mellon, and was presented with the following perplexing situation: the app works, yet it is limited by Google and Apple in distribution and functionality. Among other issues, NOVID is not allowed to market the app without explicit government approval.

A technical solution exist. Yet, if people don’t use it, it will be worthless. Thus, this seems to be a problem of driving adoption.

PROPOSAL:

What I think may work:

Top-down:

  • Endorsement by Experts
  • Wide Exposure (Media, Apps, Sites, Offline)
  • Wide Adoption

Grassroots:

  • Community leaders drive local adoption of NOVID.
  • Adoption/marketing would include:
    1) reaching out to their network,
    2) putting posters/printouts around the neighborhood,
    3) using local social media
    4) recruiting businesses to verify/promote app in-store

WHAT ABOUT PRIVACY?

NOVID has taken extra care to respect privacy. They do not require creation of accounts, do not use GPS, and, once vaccines are here, deleting the app should forever sever you from NOVID or anyone else.

To add, my personal opinion is that, in an age when Google, FB, advertisers, etc. already have an incredible amount of information, given the level of crisis and death we are facing, privacy concerns in this case are usually inconsequential from a practical perspective.

LETS ACT:

I am hoping to help drive adoption of NOVID (and/or other apps where appropriate — they should all share data anyway). If you are interested, please feel free to print out and post this flyer or email me at nikitab@jomi.com.

2020–11–17 Update:
I started a Twitter account @ac19cr.

2020–11–18 Update:
Adjusted text, split into top-down and grassroots approaches.