The analysis, design, and development of a digital contact tracing prototype application for the identification of passengers in the event of a biological threat scenario onboard an airplane

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Gleeson, Michael
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University College Cork
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With the ever-increasing global aviation network, contagion can spread anywhere in the world within 24 hours. As a result, the potential risk of introduction and spread of infectious disease is on the rise. With over four billion airline passengers in 2017 and over seven billion expected by 2036, the transmission of infectious diseases in-flight, such as influenza A (H1N1), TB, and potentially Ebola, is of the utmost concern to global health. In 2003, the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) showed the potential of a contagion to emerge, spread and affect the health, social and economic life of people globally. Most recently, we have experienced the global spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), its impact on travel, society (individually and as a whole), and on the global economy. The increased mobility of people, facilitated by increased air travel, has resulted in the increased spread of contagion, including the a greater awareness of bioterrorism agents, across geopolitical boundaries of the globe. Many practitioners and researchers agree that contact tracing represents an important factor in mitigating the global spread of a pandemic. This study aims to explore the analysis, design and development of a ‘contact tracing’ prototype application in relation to (but not limited to) airline passengers in the event of a biological threat or pandemic. The current paper-based method of contact tracing, using the passenger locator form, often results in incomplete passenger data and delays in the dissemination of this data. These limitations can lead to delayed identification of passengers at-risk of potential infection and can ultimately result in the increased spread of contagion. From these limitations, the objective of identifying the stakeholders and user requirements of a digital contract tracing application, and to prototype the design stemming from those identified requirements, was developed in this research, from the perspective of Emergency Management (EM). In the event of a biological threat or infectious viral outbreak, it is EM practitioners and public health officials who are responsible for the collection, collation and dissemination of airline passenger data for the purposes of contact tracing. Through engaging with these practitioners from the beginning of this research a clear set of end-user requirements was identified to better inform the design and development of a prototype contact tracing application. An analysis of existing commercial systems in this area also informed this research and by examining the current processes of application development and research methodology, the most appropriate means of application development was chosen. Through employing an agile development methodology coupled with action design research, a prototype contact tracing application was developed, with collaboration from the end-users at each stage of the development process. This study provides for a comprehensive and complete prototype application encompassing information systems technology to facilitate an appropriate means to rapidly collect and analyse passenger data in an efficient and effective manner. Evaluation of the prototype application was two-fold: functional testing was carried out at each iteration of development, and user acceptance testing was conducted at the final iteration ensuring that the prototype application satisfied the needs of the end-user.
Pandemic , Contact tracing , Passenger locator form , Infectious disease , Biological threat , Public health
Gleeson, M. D. 2021. The analysis, design, and development of a digital contact tracing prototype application for the identification of passengers in the event of a biological threat scenario onboard an airplane. MSc Thesis, University College Cork.