Feature: Cuba develops first COVID-19 tracking app

Source: Xinhua| 2020-04-26 12:12:53|Editor: huaxia

HAVANA, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Yosvel Falero is one of the developers of the first Cuban COVID-19 tracking app aimed at supporting efforts to stem the spread of the virus nationwide.

The 37-year-old honed his skills as a computer science professional through a Chinese government scholarship in the city of Wuhan in 2018.

"What I learnt in China has been fundamental to develop this app which will facilitate better and quicker detection of suspected cases and people infected with COVID-19 on the island," he said.

Working almost restlessly with classic music tracks and cups of coffee, he and a group of some 20 young engineers from Cuba's University of Computer Sciences take down notes, discuss and process data provided by nearly 200 contributors working on supporting the early detection system of suspected cases of the novel coronavirus across the country.

"We send information provided by the population to health authorities. Then, medical workers visit people reporting symptoms and make decisions about it. That is the way it works," Alain Pieria, leader of the project, told Xinhua.

Currently, more than 3,000 students study at the University of Computer Sciences, located on the outskirts of Cuba's capital Havana and founded by then Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro in 2002, which aimed to develop national software industry.

It stands over the former Lurdes signals intelligence base operated by Cuba and Russia from 1964 following the Missile Crisis.

The University of Computer Sciences, which developed Cuban social media toDus and local play store ApKlis, is annually involved in nearly 100 projects intended to increase consumption of online contents produced by the state-operated sector in the island nation.

Yanio Hernandez, vice president at Havana's University of Computer Sciences, said Cuba has studied the effectiveness of tracking apps developed by China.

"A huge amount of technological platforms we work with has been developed in China. So, the Chinese experience has been valuable for us," he added.

Cuba has more than 6 million internet users, according to the country's Ministry of Communications.

"The majority of self-reports registered are sent from Havana and Villa Clara, among the virus-hardest-hit provinces in the country," said Raidel Montesinos, president of the University of Computer Sciences.

As part of the computerization process of Cuban society, more than 2 million people on the island have accessed mobile Internet since December 2018 after the government invested in infrastructure acquired from different countries, including China.

The first coronavirus tracking app developed in Cuba is the result of a work project involving the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, the state operated telecommunications company ETECSA and the country's Ministry of Public Health.

"Thanks to the app, 86 people were taken to isolation centers and three to hospitals during the first three days after its launching," said Minister of Public Health Jose Angel Portal, adding fever, headache and cough are among the most self-reported symptoms for COVID-19.

Maribel Cruz, a 52-year-old resident in Havana, is among 70,000 Cubans using the tracking app one week after its launch.

"When doctors passed by, I had a fever and I was not feeling well. Fortunately, it was nothing serious," she said.

So far, Cuba has reported 1,337 cases with 51 deaths.

The University of Computer Sciences in Havana, from which more than 15,000 engineers have graduated since its foundation, also helps Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute process data taken from COVID-19 samples.

Hundreds of coronavirus tracking apps have been developed worldwide following China's pioneering experience in mobile technologies amid the coronavirus outbreak. Enditem