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COVID-19 NEWS: 'Contact Tracing: How Ireland Built Its App and What It's Doing Next'
Daphne Leprince-Ringuet writes the following for ZDNet:
While most Irish residents were busy preparing for the country to go on full lockdown on the weekend of the 21 March this year, Colm Harte, the technical director of software company NearForm, was having another kind of Saturday.
Ireland’s Health Services Executive (HSE) had called his team that day, and with a pretty heavy-duty request: to build a working and safe Bluetooth-based contact-tracing app that could be rolled out nationwide to help fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Ideally, as soon as possible.
Harte accepted the challenge. A few months later, Ireland’s Covid Tracker app launched, and was downloaded more than a million times in the first 48 hours. According to Harte, all things considered, ‘it went extremely well’. …
Crucially, the company is working with Northern Ireland to release an app based on Google and Apple’s protocol, which would work on both sides of the border. The Northern Irish app will be built on the same platform as its Irish counterpart, although Harte stressed it will be completely different in its design and functionalities, in order to meet the specific needs of the region.
Expected to launch in a few weeks, the tool would make Northern Ireland the first part of the UK to have fully functioning contact-tracing technology, in a rather unflattering contrast to the recent NHSX app fiasco.
It is on interoperability that Harte and his team are focusing their efforts now. As countries exit lockdown and travel starts gathering pace again, having contact-tracing apps that can work across borders seems to be the obvious next step.
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