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DILG chief has ‘buyer’s remorse’ on ‘overrated’ contact-tracing app

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STAYSAFE.PH, the digital app adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) for its contact-tracing efforts, apparently cannot be depended on yet to perform its function.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who is also government’s “contact-tracing czar” said, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is currently on a “study and learning status. The documentation is incomplete, so I can’t say categorically that this StaySafe app is highly reliable. It needs further study and tweaking, along with the documentation, and enhance further its functionalities.”

He admitted that contact-tracing was still the “weakest link” in the government’s fight versus Covid-19.

According to government sources who attended the IATF meeting last Thursday, DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año even expressed “buyer’s remorse” over the app, which was donated by the developer, Multisys Technologies Corp. He was quoted as saying the app was “overrated. There is much to be improved, which will require funds and time, both of which we don’t have.”

A car without an engine

DILG expected that the app that was to be turned over to them would already be “up and running,” Anõ reportedly said. However, when they assessed it, they found it “not really functioning…. It’s very hard to sell to the public and even to the LGUs [local government units] to adapt,” he told IATF members.

Sources said the DILG chief likened StaySafe to a car which was delivered to his house “with an incomplete engine and transmission.”

However, in his online presser also on Tuesday, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque claimed, “All the controversies surrounding this app have already been resolved. All that had to be donated have already been donated to the Philippine government. This is already being used and implemented by the DILG and the technical assistance is being provided by DICT [Department of Information and Communications Technology].”

As for the deliverables, he added, “These have already been done and we have decided to go full speed ahead with the We are all systems go.”

DOH reject

Magalong said the Department of Health (DOH) actually rejected the StaySafe app because it disagreed with the developer, Multisys, on how to go about in turning over the project. He likened it to the DOH “wanting to have the key to a house that had been turned over, so they can inspect if it is well made, and the facilities are complete, before it accepts the house. [Multisys] on the other hand, wanted to turn over the house, before they give the key to it.” (See, “Controversial contact-tracing app at the heart of new govt safety seal certification for business,” in the BusinessMirror, April 16, 2021.)

He acknowledged that DOH had a point: “We have to inspect and evaluate the app’s source code, your production data base, and what other functionalities it has, so we can be sure that your system is well-made.”

After being rejected by DOH, he said the digital app was donated to the DILG, but could not say why government was still adopting StaySafe, when it didn’t work. He referred reporters to DILG’s information technology experts for answers.

Magalong himself doesn’t use the StaySafe app in Baguio City, but the Visita app developed by InnoPub Media, and funded by the Department of Tourism.

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