Concerns Rise About Contact Finder App for Foreign Olympic Fans

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Questions have been raised about a smartphone app under development to track the whereabouts of foreign visitors during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, due to its high cost and the amount of work involved. remains to be done in the next five months.

Japan must decide by the end of spring on the number of spectators at each venue and whether or not to accept overseas fans. The app is seen as a “lifeline” for disease control, according to a games source, if foreign fans are allowed to enter the country.

One company made and won the bid in January to develop the app for 7.3 billion yen ($ 69 million) – long before the decision was made.

“It was done too soon. We need flexibility in policy measures, including alternatives, ”said Kanako Otsuji, a lawmaker from the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga admitted he was “not aware of the exact figure” for developing the app when Otsuji asked him about the expense that could become a huge waste at a budget committee meeting in the House of Representatives Wednesday.

But Suga also said he sees “also uses away from games”.

The application will connect to the electronic visa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the HER-SYS system of the Ministry of Health, which share information on infected people, as well as a personalized system to centralize information on the movements of foreign visitors, health status and COVID-19 test results.

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It will be mandatory for visitors to the Tokyo Games to own a smartphone and install the app. In return, they will in principle be exempt from 14 days of quarantine and will be free to use public transport.

But there are several concerns. It is still unclear whether it is possible to deny entry to people who do not have a smartphone, while it is likely that the application cannot be used with smartphones developed by the Chinese giant of the Huawei Technologies Co.

It also comes from recent failures in the government’s digital policy.

COCOA, a COVID-19 contact tracing app, did not warn Android users that they were near someone who tested positive for the virus, while using HER- SYS also fell short.

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While deeming the 7.3 billion yen as an adequate investment given the savings made by the app on labor expenses, Professor Tetsutaro Uehara of Ritsumeikan University said time is running out in because of its multiple links with other systems.

“The workload is just too heavy. It is an extremely difficult schedule to set up (the application) in a short period of time and then repeat the tests, ”he said.

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