Northern Ireland first to launch COVID-19 contact tracing mobile app

Published: 10-Aug-2020

Government and industry partnership delivers human-centred app to reduce spread of coronavirus

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has released its contact tracing mobile application.

Available on both Android and iOS; the app, StopCOVID NI, will automatically tell users if they have been near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The first app of its kind to be released in the UK; it is designed to help slow or stop the spread of coronavirus.

And its creation is the result of a major joint effort between a number of partners including Digital Health & Care NI; Belfast-based design consultant Big Motive; software developer, NearForm; quality services consultancy, Expleo; and numerous government bodies including the NISRA, NICCY, RNIB & ICO.

The app was created using a human-centred design approach, a process that was led by Big Motive.

And, at the earliest stage possible, prototypes were designed and tested with the public.

Every component and detail was trialled; from the on-boarding process to the language used throughout.

This allowed for feedback and insights to be collected and implemented iteratively.

Simple to use, COVIDCare NI has three main functions:

  • An in-app symptom checker for COVID-19, providing the user with personalised advice
  • A dedicated advice search to answer user questions
  • A push notification service with the ability to alert users to changes in any official status or advice related to COVID-19

Under the system, a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 can add their result to the app.

Anyone who then comes into close contact with that person will be notified automatically without disclosure of the person’s identity or location.

The app uses the ‘Exposure Notification API’ developed by Apple and Google in a joint effort to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing, with user privacy and security core to the design.

Since its release, the app is listed as the Number 1 medical app in the App Store, with a total of 100,000 downloads in the first 24 hours.

Dr Ediie O’Neill, consultant medical advisor to Digital Health and Care NI, Health and Social Care Board, said: “Working with a committed design team helped move ideas to delivery in a partnership with the developers at a lightning pace.

“The product is something we can all be proud of and certainly had an impact.”

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