Digital Solutions for COVID-19

With the increasing numbers of infected people due to COVID-19, different entities (including ourselves) have joined forces to satisfy the demand for digital solutions.

We have been working with Helpforce since the end of 2019 to develop and build a new web platform to recruit and train volunteers for the NHS. Having completed the running of User Testing workshops and user interviews during our UX review process of their old site in December, we have been able to accelerate the development of the site following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This platform for Helporce will be released shortly - we’re glad to be doing our bit!

We are not alone; others are launching a variety of solutions to combat the pandemic. Population screening, infection tracking, prioritization of the use and allocation of resources, and targeted responses design among others. Here are some examples of how technology is helping in the fight against Coronavirus.

1. Apple & Google

Apple and Google’s engineering teams have been working on the creation of a contact tracing tool (across iOS and Android) that will help users determine if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The first phase is the creation of an API that public health agencies can integrate into their own apps. This will allow them to track the spread of the virus and inform potentially exposed individuals so that they can get tested. The next step is to build a contact tracing system that will work on an opt-in basis.

On-board radios will be used to transmit anonymous IDs over short distances using Bluetooth beaconing. Databases will keep track of the last 14 days of movement. In case a user is diagnosed with Coronavirus (and with their consent), people who have been in contact with this person (and who have accepted to be tracked for this purpose) will be notified so that they can be tested and self-isolate.

2. French response

Oliver Véran and Cédric O, France’s health and digital ministers, have officially announced that France is working on the development of an App for decreasing the spread of COVID-19. This will be named ‘Stop Covid’, and to make it more reliable, ‘appropriate safeguards’ will be implemented so that a secure treatment of personal information is guaranteed.

The potential app will rely on Bluetooth Low Energy to identify other phones running the same application. In case an individual gets close to another one diagnosed with the virus, the app will notify them.

They have also built an official website which offers an online test to diagnose the possibility of being infected and a guideline of what to do depending on the results.

3. TraceTogether

Singapore’s TraceTogether app is a successful example of a digital solution already launched. It has similar functions to the one discussed in point two. It uses Bluetooth signals to detect when someone’s phone is near another phone that also has the application installed, triggering them to exchange anonymised IDs. If any of them have been infected, a notification will be sent to the people the user has been in contact with recently.

4. CodeTheCurve

CodeTheCurve is an initiative of UNESCO, in partnership with SAP and IBM, in order to call innovators and young developers to use their creativity, and digital and entrepreneurial skills to collaborate in the creation of digital solutions to current and future pandemic challenges.

Participating teams will work on one of three main themes from 6th to 30th April: 1) Ensuring continued learning 2) Data management and information, and 3) The present and the future: societal and health issues.

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