Starting from September 1st, the State of Hawaii will launch a new mobile app that will help track and trace passengers arriving on the islands. The Safe Travels app is a digital version of the existing forms which travelers need to fill out in order to visit Hawaii. The app was developed with Google and cost $638,000 to create and implement. The funding for the app came from the CARES Act budget.
A new online app
Hawaii is hoping its new mobile app will encourage more travelers to visit the island while still preventing further outbreaks. The Safe Travels app will allow people traveling to Hawaii to fill in their health information online. Douglas Murdock, chief information officer, Office of Enterprise Technology Services for the State of Hawaii said,
“Compared to paper processing, this online app will save travelers time at the airport and will speed up distribution of information to state and county officials who need it to keep us all safe.”
Passengers can enter all the relevant information using either Facebook, Google, or email logins up to 24 hours before departure. Passengers then receive a specially generated QR code that can be scanned at the airport upon arrival. The hopes are that this will be a much faster method of tracking travelers. However, the app cannot actively track a phone’s location, so its long-term effectiveness is being questioned already.
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The information will be stored on a highly-secured Google cloud, which can be accessed by law enforcement to apply quarantine rules and update passengers on potential outbreaks. Without direct tracking capabilities, it is not yet clear how quarantine measures will be enforced. Based on the information provided, the app will also let passengers know if they are required to take a second test.
The app will be updated with new features as the travel restrictions change. This should make it easy for travelers to stay up to date with changing regulations and encourage tourism. The Governor of Hawaii, David Ige said,
“I am pleased to launch this digital app, which will allow our travelers to provide their required health and travel information before they arrive at the airport. It will also help us keep in contact with those who are required to be in quarantine. This is an important step in preparing to reopen our economy.”
Will it be effective?
A digital version of the track and trace forms may encourage more people to travel as they can be sure they are proving the correct information. Additionally, the app is being promoted as more straightforward and faster without compromising the effectiveness of track and trace forms. Anyone without a smartphone is being told to ask a friend or relative for help or to seek assistance at the airport on arrival.
The app is just one aspect of the state’s plans to begin reopening the island to tourists. As well as filling in the compulsory form online, passengers will still need to submit to temperature testing and isolate for 14 days. The online process, designed to be smoother than paper forms, may make visiting Hawaii easier. However, the increase in cases on the islands is causing other doubts about whether the islands should be reopening at all. The next few weeks should be enough to tell if the app is useful when tracking the virus.
What do you think of the app? Do you think it would be more effective if it could actively track people? Should other states adopt this approach? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.