State interference behind developers’ decision to walk away from Covid-tracing app

Government interference in test results was behind the decision by the developers of Covid-tracing app Mor Chana to walk away from the collaboration, a team member said.

Canada-based academic and developer Loy Chunpongtong on Sunday told Thai media that the government’s drive to control the app meant that it was not serving its original purpose, leading the developers to withdraw from the public-private team.

Medical technologist Parkpoom Dejhutsadin on Monday said “various agencies” were allegedly putting pressure to keep some infected users’ status as green in the app, effectively hiding their status from other users, rather than changing it to orange or red and allowing others to avoid a risk of contagion.

He made the allegation on his popular Facebook page หมอแล็บแพนด้า (Mor Lab Panda), citing members of the Mor Chana development team.

For those modified results, “only the state will know who is at risk, and not the public, making the app useful for only a specific number of agencies and departments,” Parkpoom wrote. “The public will obtain the least advantage from this, misleading the purpose of the developers who originally wrote the app.”

The developer team said on 15 January that they were handing over all operations to the state as they did not want the public to be confused as to who was running the app, according to the statement on their Facebook page.

Mor Chana was developed through the cooperation of the government and private sector, led by the Code for Public, a team of independent software developers, and the Chuay Kan group of software specialists and data analysts.

The news of their departure has been met with outrage and disbelief from the public, with netizens commenting on the app’s unreliability and breach of data privacy.

Dr Opas Kankawinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department of the Ministry of Public Health, said on Sunday that they were open to talking with the developers regarding their concerns about the greenlighting the status of infected patients. He added that the app has successfully notified 3,283 users who were at risk, as of January 16.

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