Japan, computer expert, designs an application to combat the pandemic

TOKYO: Stopping the spread of the pandemic is based on knowing where infected people have been and who they have been in contact with so that they can be analyzed and treated.

Like many teenagers, at 16 they love skateboarding, Bruno Mars and hamburgers. But he is taking advantage of his talent for programming. Kato has designed an iPhone software application that uses GPS so that people can keep their own records of their whereabouts on their mobile phone, to help with contact tracking.

Called Asiato, by footprint, the app tracks the movements of a phone at a distance of 10 meters (33 feet) or more. An English version of the app is available for free from the iPhone app store.

The app works like a newspaper, but keeps track of locations. To protect privacy, data is stored on the phone and is not automatically shared.

If a person discovers that they have COVID-19, Asiato identifies where they have been in the past few weeks. They would have to contact people on their own that they might have infected, or inform health authorities if asked.

Under Japan's pandemic state of emergency, citizens are asked, not ordered, to stay home. Tracking your movements remains a crucial way to help control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. It could also be used elsewhere as economies re-open around the world, Kato said.

Kato got off to an early start by using his programming skills. In fifth grade, he designed a math application to make a division that gives the remainder as a number for the answer, not decimal points.

While in sixth grade, he developed a program to write book reports. The 240 yen (about $ 2) program simplifies the process and doesn't involve cheating, he says.

In 2017, Kato won the government-backed group's super creator award, created to support innovation, for his DrawCode, which simplifies writing the language for web pages and programs, known as HTML, for kids to program.

Yu Ukai, who is leading the foundation's youth efforts, said he was impressed with Kato's passion and the speed with which he identifies problems and finds solutions.

There are many ways young people like Syu can contribute to society during the pandemic, as the crisis reveals many challenges that can be solved using technology, Ukai said.

Kato's new project is setting up a website for restaurants and customers to share menus and other take-away information.

Tokyo and other major cities have and other services. But in places like northern Japan, where Kato lives, it is more difficult for people trapped in their homes to find options to carry or deliver food. Such a site would also help the most affected restaurants find customers.

Kato is a digital genius in what he says is an `` analog '' family. His parents run a small amusement park and his older brother works there. The tourism recession due to the pandemic has devastated the family business.

Plans for Kato to attend school in the US USA Later this year they were canceled due to the pandemic and he is studying online. But he hopes to eventually travel abroad and perhaps start his own adventure.

What draws him to coding is the sheer joy of creation, he said.

So if I can earn some money too, that would be great, he laughed.

It's hard to compete like the little one against big players, Kato said.

Going after niche needs sometimes fails because you've searched for something too special, he said.

It is not enough to be able to program, Kato said. You have to make it a real product and launch it into the world, without giving up, so that many people can download and experience it.