New Latvian Covid-19 contact app will be available in May

Developers of the free mobile application being designed to help fight transmission of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus hope that in its early stages it will be used by around 400,000 people on a voluntary basis when it will become available for free on iOS and Android systems in the middle of May, according to a Latvian Radio broadcast on April 28.

Several ICT and science sector representatives have teamed up to develop the app for free on a volunteer basis. Several government institutions have also become involved, hoping that the app can ease the state of emergency restrictions.

“We've acquainted ourselves with the experience of several countries - Singapore, Australia, two initiatives in Europe. We've seen how to protect privacy. We've compiled information on the apps and had the opportunity to learn from their experience,” said TechHub Riga Co-founder Andris Bērziņš.

The app will comply with the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The app will inform all of those who have been in contact with an infected person without revealing their location. In the app contact will be defined as a 2-4 meter distance for longer than 15 minutes. The gathered data will be encrypted and anonymized, so it won't be available to the app users or anyone else. Registered instances will be deleted in two to three weeks.

If a user is notified that they've been in contact with an infected person, it will be up to them to notify the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (SPKC) and begin self-isolation along with monitoring their health. This would allow SPKC to get out in front of the virus and control it more effectively.

"It's each person's own decision - if they want to protect themselves and participate in the fight against the virus. A large part of residents will reply to this with a yes,” said LMT Vice-president Ingmārs Pūķis.

He said that Latvian residents are one of the most active smartphone users in Europe and the IT industry is well developed. Pūķis hopes that in the beginning at least 20% of Latvian residents (around 400,000 people) will use the app.

All participating parties have signed a memorandum on cooperation towards limiting transmission of Covid-19 on a voluntary, unpaid basis, in accordance with data protection and security requirements. Participants include LMT, MakIT, Mobilly, TestDevLab, Zippy Vision, University of Latvia experts, TechHub Riga Co-founder Andris Bērziņš, and government representatives such as the President of Latvia, Chancery of the President of Latvia, SPKC, NATO StratCom COE, as well as medical professionals and epidemiologists.

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