The coronavirus pandemic has touched every corner of the globe, and in most countries, the tech industry has played a key role in the fight against it.
Uruguay is one of those countries. Situated in South America, and surrounded by countries that have high rates of infection, how has Uruguay managed to keep the pandemic under control? One defining factor is the timely and smart use of technology.
Quick Response from the Local Tech Community
Uruguay has a high rate of digitization, almost 100% of the population has access to fast phone and internet connections. Local tech companies thrive in this environment. Some of the key factors that played a significant role in restricting the spread of the pandemic were:
Websites to support people
Companies and organizations quickly set up websites that shared awareness about online delivery options to facilitate social distancing. Some startups created apps for people to be able to volunteer and help those in need. Chatbots were added to various government websites and quickly reached most of the population due to the widespread access to the internet. Information on COVID, its containment measures, and guidelines for people to follow were online and accessible to the general population in a matter of hours.
The Mobile App That Transformed The Scene: Coronavirus UY
A joint effort between the government and private companies led to the development of the Coronavirus UY app, a game-changer in dealing with the pandemic.
The app offers a self-assessment questionnaire for users to see if they have symptoms of COVID. Based on the result, the app provides guidelines to be followed. If any symptoms are present, the data is sent to a healthcare provider. Any person who needs medical assistance can get a telemedicine consultation. This helps reduce the load on hospitals and decrease the waiting time for patients.
Screening And Tracking To Prevent The Spread
With the Coronavirus UY app, Uruguay became the first country in the Americas to integrate Google and Apple's COVID-19 Contact Tracing Technology in a mobile application. The two silicon valley giants chose Uruguay to implement the system, together with three other countries.
Why Uruguay? Due to the successful development of the Coronavirus UY app, as well as the success in downloads by the local population. Over 350.000 people downloaded the app in the first month. For the Contact Tracing Technology to be able to work properly, a good portion of the population needs to have access to smartphones and download the app. If not, tracing efforts would be insufficient, since they would not be covering a relevant percentage of the population.
Letters from Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google; congratulating Uruguay's government on incorporating their contact tracing technology into Coronavirus UY
The information of all active and past COVID cases is compiled in a single database, allowing healthcare professionals to follow up and stay in contact with patients. The latest update, which includes the Contact Tracing technology developed by Google and Apple, allows the app to send alerts to users who have come in contact with any registered COVID positive cases. This function helps in limiting the rate of transmission, so people who have been exposed to the virus may go into self-quarantine, facilitating contact-tracing.
People with COVID positive results can upload their status onto the app, so anyone who came in contact with them receives an alert, but their identity is kept anonymous. Privacy and security are 100% guaranteed to all of its users.
Anticipating an eventual shortage in medical resources, local scientists and institutions came together to design and produce respirators in record time. The proposal came from the National Agency for Research and Innovation, and companies, institutions and professionals got together managing to produce 50 respirators in a period of only 40 days.
Besides respirators, the country also destined funds to produce diagnostic kits. The Pasteur Institute together with researchers from the University of the Republic - Uruguay's public and oldest university - developed and produced the kits, with 25% of Covid tests in the country being done using these kits.
Uruguay's decision to tackle the pandemic by leveraging the well-developed local tech industry is the result of a history of collaboration between the government and private players to address local issues together.
The tech industry has been an ally for the government and the population in countless situations. Proving that thinking outside of the box, and using all available resources is a great path forward.