An open-source digital contact tracing system tailored to haulage

Adrian Muwonge, Bryan A Wee, Ibrahim Mugerwa, Emma Nabunya, Christine Mbabazi Mpyangu, Mark Bronsvoort, Emmanuel Robert Ssebaggala, Aggelos Kiayias, Erisa Sabakaki Mwaka, Moses L Joloba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Digital contact tracing presents numerous advantages compared to manual contact tracing methods, especially in terms of enhanced speed and automation. Nevertheless, a lack of comprehensive evaluation regarding functionality, efficiency, benefits, and acceptance within communities remains. Here we primarily focus on the functionality of THEA-GS, an open-source digital contact tracing tool developed through consultation with stakeholders. Additionally, we provide insights from its implementation on a limited sample of haulage drivers in Uganda, serving as a representative case for a low- and middle-income country. THEA-GS comprises two primary components: (a) a smartphone application, and (b) a suite of server-programs responsible for data processing and analysis, including databases and a web-based interface featuring dashboards. In essence, the mobile application records the timestamped location of haulage drivers within the road network and identifies possible transmission hotspots by analyzing factors such as the duration of stops and the communities associated with them. The tool can be integrated with national infrastructure to compare drivers' diagnostic results and contact structure, thereby generating individual and community risk assessments relative to the road network. During the Omicron-variant wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 3,270 haulage drivers were enrolled between October 2021 and October 2022. Around 75% of these drivers utilized THEA-GS for approximately two months. Based on an analysis of 3,800 test results, which included 48 positive cases, 125 contacts, and 40 million time-stamped GPS points, THEA-GS shows a significant speed improvement, being approximately 90 times faster than MCT. For instance, the average time from sample collection to notifying a case and their contacts was approximately 70 and 80 min, respectively. The adoption of this tool encountered challenges, mainly due to drivers' awareness of its purpose and benefits for public health. THEA-GS is a place-based digital contact tracing tool specifically designed to assist National Public Health Institutions in managing infectious disease outbreaks involving the haulage industry as a high-risk group. While its utility, acceptance, and accuracy have not been fully evaluated, our preliminary tests conducted in Uganda indicate the tool's functionality is robust, but social acceptance and adoption are heavily reliant on establishing trust among users.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages13
JournalFrontiers in Digital Health
Early online date19 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jul 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • COVID-19
  • LMIC
  • contact tracing
  • global south
  • open-source
  • targeted digital


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