Numerous countries have COVID-19 symptom and tracking apps, but the World Health Organization wants to fill in those gaps for the countries that are too stretched to develop their own software. The World Health Organization Bernardo Mariano told Reuters in an interview that the outfit planned to release a symptoms assessment app worldwide later in May. Any government could release a customized version of the app, Mariano said, but the stock version will help countries that “do not have anything.”
“The value is really for countries that do not have anything,” Mariano said. “We would be leaving behind the ones that are not able to (provide an app), that have fragile health systems.”
The WHO app is open source and is available on GitHub. Per Reuters, engineers and designers have been volunteering to develop the app for weeks. About five of them are overseeing its development.
The World Health Organization is also considering whether to include a Bluetooth-based contact-tracing feature, which would inform users if they had recently been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, to the app. The organisation has talked to Apple and Google about adopting their joint method. Some countries, such as Australia, the UK (on the Isle of Wight only for now) and Singapore, are already using contact-tracing apps.
Nonetheless, legal and privacy issues have prevented the WHO from committing to a contact-tracing feature. One such concern is that the businesses that make proximity tools will use the personal data they gather to make money later on, Mariano said.
However, Apple and Google have said that health authorities that use their contract-tracing APIs to build coronavirus apps will not be able to track users’ locations or use the data gathered to advertise to users. In addition, both companies said in mid-April that they will disable the APIs after the outbreak had been sufficiently contained.
Even the basic symptom app could prove vital. A globally available World Health Organization app could better inform people who might not know what to expect from the coronavirus and prompt more people to get tested. Widespread contact tracing, meanwhile, may be crucial to restoring society after lockdowns it could more accurately track the spread of the virus and help limit the scope of further closures.