Since the outbreak of the COVID-19, countries and research groups have endeavoured to provide effective, preventive measures that can help curtail its spread. One of the measures: a contact-tracing app has caught the eye of the public. A Swiss team is developing this app, making them the first to fuse technology from both Google and Apple.
What is contact-tracing?
In simplest terms, the contact-tracing app uses our smartphones to detect the distance between two people; and alert one in a case where the other is diagnosed with the disease later on. Those people will then be tracked down and asked to self-isolate.
This initiative has been ladled with skepticism. In Switzerland, for instance; even though a poll conducted shows seventy-percent of the Swiss residents support the idea, the Members of the Parliament (MPs) are yet to arrive at a unanimous decision about its distribution to the public.
A joint letter published in the press; written by the digital affairs ministers from the German, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese governments reads; “The use and design of digital technologies must be in such a way that we, as democratically elected governments, evaluate it and judge it acceptable to our citizens and following our European values. We believe that challenging this right by imposing technical standards represents a misstep and a missed opportunity for open collaboration between governments and the private sector.”
Despite criticisms, at least twenty-two countries and US states who requested for the application programming interface (API), gave positive reviews. Some, like the UK, have gone as far as making it a back-up to their projects; while others are in a rush to produce apps based on it.
China isn’t left out as health officials in Hangzhou, China, are looking towards the future; and planning on making the app a permanent part of the locals’.
The Guardian reports, “fewer Australians are using a local contact-tracing app than officials had hoped;” it also says, “the government is still considering whether to switch to the Apple-Google system.”
According to the Ctech site news, “Israeli MPs have been told that smartphone surveillance tech used by the country’s security agency Shin Bet helped identify more than 4,000 cases of Covid-19. The report says mistakes and malfunctions also occurred; which a panel of politicians need to take into account as it weighs up whether to extend the controversial programme.”
BBC reports that a spokeswoman from Apple had this to say, “Apple already approved the software to appear on its App Store, but the developers were still waiting for permission to list it on the Google Play marketplace,” she also adds “Of course we would be very happy to be the first [national launch], but the most important thing is to help our inhabitants fights the virus.”
In contrast to the Swiss team, the Latvian Group- which has also included the API- doesn’t need a vote to proceed with their launch; and are working at making the app available to the public by Thursday.