Latvian 'Stop Covid' app first of its kind in the world

The "Apturi Covid" (Stop Covid) application developed by the Latvian IT industry will be the first application of its kind in the world, said Andris Bērziņš, co-founder of the non-governmental organization  TechHub Riga, in an interview with Latvian Radio on May 29.

He noted that there are other apps that use similar contact-detecting features but they don't work with Google and Apple specifications.

"We decided to use these principles because it is a privacy-protecting solution that has less impact on people's lives. We will be the first in the world to launch the app in broad use. It's a great opportunity to show our capable IT industry," said Bērziņš.

The application will communicate with other devices via Bluetooth and exchange anonymous encrypted codes. If a user is COVID-19 positive, the Center of Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC) will ask to enter a code in the app. 

"Then the app will send the message out to other users. If the user has entered their phone number, SPKC will be able to contact them," Bērziņš said. Thus, the user will be able to begin self-isolation and not endanger other people when they find themselves in contact with someone who is ill.

Bērziņš pointed out that the effectiveness of the app could be achieved even by 10%-20% of the population using it. He said that initially the app might not work on all smartphones but is expected to function well in most cases. 

Developers hope the app will be used by 400,000 people. The app will run using Bluetooth and will be available for devices with iOS or Android operating systems.

The app will be available as of May 29 and more information in English is available at the dedicated website.

As well as its practical use, the app is also playing a role in marketing Latvia's COVID-19 response and the country's hi-tech sector in a more general way.

President of Latvia Egils Levits said he had downloaded ‘Stop Covid’ to his phone today as soon as it became available for download to Latvian residents.

“Latvia is the first country in the world to launch an app that meets democratic standards and can be downloaded voluntarily. [The] App has been created by talented experts from several Latvian companies together with a number of government departments and the Chancery of the President. Latvia has demonstrated that it can contain the virus more efficiently than many other world countries. We are a smart nation. We know how to use technology for the common benefit of all people. We must protect ourselves, our families and fellow countrymen and women together. We control the artificial intelligence. It does not control us. Artificial intelligence behind this app works for us, for our health and safety,” said Levits. 

He was followed by plenty more officials revealing they are also early adopters of the technology.

 

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