Countries around the world are fighting to develop software on mobile phones that could control the spread of the coronavirus by alerting people if they have come into contact with someone who has tested positive.
These applications of life and death are the next step in the battle to defeat the infection that has stopped world economies.
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This could be a crucial moment, as the government will launch the app nationwide in a few weeks, unless there are setbacks. It has been downloaded by 55,000 people on the Isle of Wight, according to the UK Department of Health, but will soon be available to millions of people.
States and local governments in the United States, including North and South Dakota and Utah, are all developing their own versions. These differ because some take a centralized approach to storing data while others keep data on users’ devices.
Many say that a tracking and tracing application should be downloaded by 60% of the population to be effective and a major obstacle to this is the concern for confidentiality.
But Bob Seely, the politician representing the Isle of Wight, 80 miles south of London, told MarketWatch that the privacy concerns were unfounded and “ironic”.
“There is nothing more ironic than people who go to Facebook to complain about the loss of their privacy,” he said. “This app does not track your location, it is the only app I have ever downloaded that does not ask for my location. “
And the initial phase of the deployment went “very well,” he said. “Many Islanders asked for the link to the app before they even received their letter about it.”
“Last weekend, Dr. Geraint Lewis, head of NHSX (the technology department of the health service) on the application, said that on average 25 people per day were tested for coronavirus after reporting it via the application. This not only helps keep them safe, but also helps everyone else on the island. “
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Alice Webster, director of nursing for the Isle of Wight, told MarketWatch that the Isle of Wighters was thrilled to be part of the national deployment and called the application “a great solution.”
There were technological issues, but, she said, “I’m a bit of a technophobe, but even I managed to download the app. “
She said she knew there were privacy concerns, but people were eager to do “anything” to help control the virus.
“It is extremely difficult to work with patients who are really sick with COVID-19 and we are looking forward to doing anything to fight this virus,” she said.
The UK government has said the app will play a vital role in restarting the country and on Monday presented a “roadmap” of steps towards easing the coronavirus lockdown.
Residents of the Isle of Wight told MarketWatch that they are proud to test the application and that if it were not for technical problems, it would be used much more.
Some residents were unable to download the app, while others said it drains a phone’s battery.
Meanwhile, Island counselor Paul Fuller told MarketWatch that the response to the app has been generally positive.
“I have had people who are concerned about some of the negative things you hear on TV, about Big Brother and other things,” he said. “But I think people have thought about it and if it can save the life of one person, then it’s a good thing isn’t it? “
Resident Joy Whitaker said, “The whole island has really taken over.”
“From what I’ve seen, the people I’ve talked to, and I’m talking to a lot of people … I think it works very well,” she said.