Ex-Usec Rio scores, Roque defends Covid app

In file photo: Medical frontliners and health workers in Pasig City wait for the free shuttle service provided by the local government.

MALACAÑANG on Monday said former Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Eliseo Rio’s proposed application system for tracking novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases did not push through due to procurement issues.

“What happened probably is the app, which is being proposed by Rio, did not qualify even for purposes of emergency procurement,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in an online press briefing.

Roque issued the statement in response to Rio’s post on social media during the weekend, where he alleged that his proposal “was not considered” by the “gatekeeper” of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

Rio said his proposed system, which would have integrated granular data from concerned agencies and the private sector, could have prevented the spread of Covid-19 by allowing the government to keep track of the cases nationwide in real time.

Roque, however, claimed Rio’s proposal was considered by the IATF, but was deemed impractical since it has yet to be developed.

He noted the IATF opted to make use of an already existing and free data system, StaySafe.PH, created by Multisys Technology Corp. (MTC), together with the apps already developed by Google and Apple.

“Based from what I know, what is now being implemented is…what many countries in the world are using because the program jointly developed by Google and Apple is free,” Roque said.

The Palace official said MTC already completed the donation of the system to the government and transferred all its data to the Department of Health (DOH) for safekeeping.

In June, the IATF ordered the DOH to take control of StaySafe.PH to ensure its data will be protected by the government.

Rio claimed in last weekend’s post that the ICT subtechnical working group of the IATF has been “preventing the contribution” of groups and individuals in favor of ICT Assistant Secretary Manny Caintic’s ideas.

Rio, who now represents Covid-19 Central Advocacy Group, said his team is offering the necessary infrastructure and software free of charge to the government, as opposed to emergency procurement. This was favorably endorsed by ICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II and IATF Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr.

Rio’s proposal is an open system, wherein anyone can pitch in to collectively implement the testing, tracing and treating of Covid-19 patients.

However, Caintic’s group decided to move forward with the emergency procurement and this, according to Rio, has proven to be ineffective in helping test, trace and treat Covid-19 patients. The move cited Resolution 36, which closed the IT ecosystem of the IATF.

Resolution 36 was dated May 13. Rio’s proposal was signed April 29. This irregularity had earned the ire of Rio, who said this was “a clear case of deception.”

Samuel Medenilla, Lorenz Marasigan

Image credits: Roy Domingo


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