Time is precious in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. To avoid long queues for frontliners passing through checkpoints, the Philippines will launch a rapid pass system on April 6.
The new RapidPassPH system will enable contact-free verification of frontliners via QR codes. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) worked with a global community of Filipino tech experts to launch this system. This was in response to a request from the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
When geeks and scientists unite
“We at the IATF looked for a solution to solve the queuing problems at the checkpoints,” Cabinet Secretary and IATF spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a virtual press conference held this afternoon.
This new rapid pass system aims to remove congestion, speed up vital deliveries, and protect checkpoint frontliners through contact-free verification.
“To use the system, ‘Authorized Persons Outside of Residence’ must register online through the RapidPassPH app, then a QR code will be sent to them once approved. Print the QR code and place it on their vehicle window, and checkpoint personnel will scan it using the same app. This system provides a safe, efficient, and contact-less method for manning our various checkpoints,” DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said in a press statement.
The DOST partnered with Developers Connect (DEVCON Philippines), the largest community of Filipino IT professionals and tech enthusiasts, and the DEVCON Community of Technology Experts (DCTx), a global volunteer-based community of Filipino experts. DCTx volunteers developed RapidPassPH free of charge, and did it in less than three weeks. Frontliners will also get the RapidPassPH passes for free.
Homegrown Filipino ingenuity
The new rapid pass system is a testament to Filipino ingenuity and innovation, according to DEVCON Philippines founder Winston Damarillo, who hosted the virtual press conference.
“We literally saw hundreds of Filipino volunteers from around the world, come forward to lend their talents to this initiative. They worked ‘round the clock, on top of their day jobs, to get this up and running in record time,” Damarillo said in a press statement.
Damarillo also cited the outpouring of support from the private sector. The industry stakeholders include Microsoft Philippines, the PLDT Group, Amihan Global Strategies, and Talino Venture Labs.
He said that PLDT donated 2oo Samsung A10 Android phones for the RapidPassPH project.
Preparing for the ‘new normal’
Department of Information and Communications Technology Assistant Secretary Emmanuel Caintic stressed that they have ensured that the new rapid pass system complies with data privacy laws.
“This is not an ID system. You still need an ID,” Caintic said during the virtual press conference while addressing privacy concerns.
Nograles added that depending on when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will be lifted, RapidPassPH might have a Phase 2.
Nograles said the IATF has not yet decided if the government will extend the ECQ beyond April 13. He said it is possible that the rapid pass system can even go down to the barangay level. The system could incorporate existing quarantine passes to also ensure contact-free verification at the barangay level.
“Basically, fighting the COVID-19 virus is controlling the movement of people,” Nograles said.
He pointed out that the world must prepare for the “new normal“. Even after the quarantine, we might need to observe social distancing to prevent new outbreaks.