Expat and local confusion over Thailand contact tracing app

Published:  5 Jun at 6 PM
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If there’s one thing that’s certain about living in Thailand as an expat, it’s confusion!

The recent introduction in Thailand of a smartphone app as a way to improve the government’s contact-tracing system seems to have fallen flat on its face for a number of reasons. The Thai Chana app involves downloading the app and using it as a pass to enter shopping malls, supermarkets and individual shops as well as using it to leave the venues. Should anyone be identified as having been infected, all those who’ve entered the premises at the same time should receive a text telling them to get a free test.

On the face of it, it’s an excellent idea but, like many such in the Land of Smiles, practicality isn’t its strongest point. Just before its launch, social media was crammed with messages concerned about online banking security, followed by those who’d downloaded the app being flooded by spam gambling messages indicating hacking on a grand scale. In addition, the software hasn’t yet been able to send out notifications to those who might be at risk. Another minor issue seems to be that, out of the huge number of Thai smartphone users, only 120,000 downloads have taken place.

Given that Thailand’s war against the coronavirus would seem to have been one of the planet’s most successful as regards numbers of infections and deaths, whether risking internet security by using an untried and tested app is a great idea is now up for discussion. There’s an acceptable alternative in that a signature and phone number can be written in a book at entry and exit points, but even that is open to the constructive use of famous names and non-existent phone numbers.

Expats are totally confused, as many don’t actually have smartphones with which to download the app, and others believe it’s overkill but, oddly enough, the massive numbers of Thais and expats wearing masks provide an excellent example for certain Western countries such as the UK.
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