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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Friday, 01.07.2022, 17:33

Covid-19 contact tracing app emerges as most popular app in Latvia

BC, Riga, 29.05.2020.Print version
The Apturi Covid (Stop Covid) mobile app created in Latvia to trace contacts of people with Covid-19 emerged as the most popular app in Latvia on App Store and Google Play on the first day after its launch, informed Elina Lidere, a spokeswoman for Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT) mobile operator which participated in the development of the app, informs LETA/BNS.

The LMT spokeswoman noted that the exact number of Apturi Covid users is not known yet. 

As reported, the Apturi Covid contact tracing app is available in Latvia from Friday, May 29. 

The Apturi Covid (Stop Covid) mobile app created in Latvia complies with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDR) and does not use data provided by the Global Positioning System (GPS) to track its users, mobile phone operator Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (LMT) President Juris Binde said during a presentation of the mobile app today.

He stressed that the data stored by the app were deleted from the device within fourteen days, explaining that this was the average incubation period for Covid-19.

LETA also saw for itself that the app in the Android environment did not require special permissions, which are necessary to be able to track the user's movement.

Binde pointed out that all the data obtained by the application were encrypted, including the codes assigned to its users, therefore the code could not be linked to a person. According to statistical models, if 15 percent to 20 percent of the population used the application, it would be able to provide significant benefits, he added.

Commenting on the development of the application, Binde emphasized that cooperation with technology companies Google and Apple had a very important role, which created an environment in which Bluetooth technology could be used to confirm a contact with a Covid-19 positive person or person who was previously in contact with a Covid-19 positive individual.

Latvia is the first country in the world to create a universal application that can be used globally, said Binde. He also thanked all those involved in the development of the software, noting that both the private and public sectors were involved in the process. In particular, Binde emphasized the assistance provided by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control and support from the President's Chancery.

He also revealed that a memorandum had been signed with various representatives of the industry, setting out the basic principles of the app - anonymity and voluntariness.

In turn, company MakIT CEO Arvis Zeile pointed out that the project had been developed by a team of over ninety people. Users of both iPhone and Android will need to update system software to the latest version for the app to work, he added.

Zeile said that the source code of the app would be later made available to the public. Source codes are commonly revealed to dispel doubts about the operation of the app, because by using the application's source code, users can see all the principles of how the application works.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) said that initially, when Covid-19 began to spread in Latvia, members of the public first of all had to stay home and isolate themselves in order to stop the virus from spreading. In his opinion, this has been done successfully in Latvia, but considering that neither a drug nor a vaccine against Covid-19 has been invented as yet, the country cannot freeze its economy forever. We will have to learn how to coexist with the virus, and the new app could help stem the spread of the virus, said Karins.

"This is an example when Latvian specialists once again prove that we can react in a very short period of time and invent something new, useful and valuable," said Karins, expressing gratitude to the developers of the app and confidence that it would make society much safer.

President Egils Levits said in a press release, "Latvia is the first country in the world to launch an app that meets democratic standards and can be downloaded voluntarily. App has been created by talented experts from several Latvian companies together with a number of government departments and Chancery of the President."

"Latvia has demonstrated that it can contain the virus more efficiently than many other world countries. We are a smart nation. We know how to use technology for the common benefit of all people. We must protect ourselves, our families and fellow countrymen and women together. We control the artificial intelligence. It does not control us. Artificial intelligence behind this app works for us, for our health and safety," said Levits.

Smartphones with the Apturi Covid app will exchange signals or digital "handshakes" via Bluetooth, which will be encrypted on the user's phone. If one phone user becomes ill, the other will be warned that he or she has been in contact with a Covid-19 infected person. The infected person and the place where the contact took place will remain anonymous to the user. 

The downloading and use of the Covid-19 contact tracing up is strictly voluntary.

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