The Minister of Digital Affairs, Cedric O, a member of the inner circle of President Emmanuel Macron, presented the application as a key element of France’s strategy to prevent the coronavirus as the authorities struggle with the prospect of mass testing.
“There’s nothing magic about this app, but it’s not technological coquetry,” O wrote on the online publishing platform Medium. “It is only useful if it is integrated into a global health system. “
Countries are rushing to develop applications to assess the risk of one person infecting another, helping to isolate those who could spread the disease.
Like others in Europe, France has chosen the short-range Bluetooth “handshake” between devices as the best approach, rejecting the alternative of using location data tracked by some Asian countries as intrusive.
But the debate has raged over whether to log these contacts to individual devices or to a central server – which would be more directly useful to existing contact tracing teams who work on phones and knock on doors to warn those who may be at risk.
France has so far opted for a “centralized” approach, which would notably require Apple to modify the parameters of its iPhones. The smartphone maker has refused to budge, although discussions with the U.S. company continue, O said.
“French sovereignty in matters of health and technology … is the freedom for our country to have a choice and not to be constrained by the choices of a large company, however innovative and effective they may be”, writes O.
France’s largest European partner, Germany, changed course last week on the type of smartphone technology it wanted to use, supporting an approach supported by Google and Apple as well as an increasing number of others European countries.
(This story corrects the title and the first paragraph to clarify that the tests will start in the week starting May 11)
Report by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Nick Macfie and Frances Kerry
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