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University of Waikato shows how large organisations can tackle contact tracing

29 May 2020

University of Waikato
University has stepped up amid contact tracing pressures.

While many businesses across the Waikato have adopted some form of contact tracing as part of Alert Level 2 guidelines, one of the region’s largest organisations has stepped up to the challenge, developing a solution that has spurred interest from other organisations looking to adopt a similar approach.

The University of Waikato, home to more than 1,400 employees and more than 10,000 students, has created a contact tracing initiative called ‘Check in before you step in’, which has been implemented in more than 4,000 individual locations across both its Hamilton and Tauranga campuses.

Using QR codes, staff and students have been able to check into all buildings on campus by scanning the codes on their phones as if taking an image.

Chief Information Officer for the University, Eion Hall, says while QR codes have proven to be a popular solution for contact tracing, the level of work and implementation required for a large organisation like the University is a huge logistical feat.

“The project was really challenging in that we were all grappling with what alert level two would look like, for the country as well as for the University, and trying to develop a solution that could flex in response to changing requirements within incredibly constrained time frames,” he says.

Eion Hall
University of Waikato Chief Information Officer, Eion Hall.

“Layered on top of the technical solution was the complexity of defining our trackable spaces on campus, and establishing appropriate privacy and security protocols to manage the information we would be collecting from staff, students and visitors to assist with contact tracing if the need arose.”

Mr Hall says the University made a conscious decision early in the project to design a system where users ‘opted in’ and controlled when they provided information, and what information they shared.

While staff and students are still making a gradual return to campus, Mr Hall says the ‘check in’ system will help the University do their bit in keeping people safe on campus.

“It’s a Government requirement for all tertiary providers to have a contact tracing process in place through the different alert levels. ‘Check in before you step in’ is a great way for us to do our part and keep everyone as safe as possible.

“Our outcome was only possible through extensive effort and deep collaboration between the Information Technology team and other parts of the University, such as Property Services, Communications and Marketing, as well as our external technology and print partners such as Datacom and Gravitas.”

To kick-start the campaign, the University released an informational video featuring Waikato Students’ Union President, Kyla Campbell-Kamariera, and a Border Collie named Ella – Junior Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley.

Ella, Professor Quigley’s dog, has gained popularity among staff and students during Covid-19, having featured regularly in the University’s communications to staff and students.

Organisations wishing to know more about ‘Check in before you step in’ are welcome to contact the University of Waikato at communications@waikato.ac.nz.

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