The World Health Organization (WHO) is prepping a COVID-19 app for folks in “under-resourced” nations to review possible signs of novel coronavirus from home. According to Reuters, the agency is also considering a Bluetooth-based contact tracing function, similar to those rolling out around the world in other apps.
The WHO app will allow users to enter symptoms (high temperature, continuous cough), then advises on the likelihood they’ve contracted the virus. Information such as how to get tested will be personalized based on location, Bernardo Mariano, chief information officer for WHO, told Reuters.
A version of the unnamed program is expected to launch globally this month; governments are also encouraged to access the API and release a more personalized version for local constituents. Australia, France, the UK, and the US have already introduced COVID-19 tracing apps, which use Bluetooth to perform a “digital handshake” between smartphone owners.
The WHO, meanwhile, is eyeing areas like South America and Africa, which, as Reuters put it, “may lack the technology and engineers” to develop such apps. “The value is really for countries that do not have anything,” Mariano told the news site. “We would be leaving behind the ones that are not able to (provide an app), that have fragile health systems.”
The team of engineers and designers working on the project includes former Google and Microsoft employees, among other creators, who are volunteering their time to build an open-source platform which will available via GitHub. The WHO is still considering the addition of a “proximity tracing” function, currently prohibited due to legal and privacy concerns. “We want to make sure we ring-fence all the risks around it,” Mariano said of the program.