Covid-19: Italy tests contact-tracing app to speed lockdown exit


A woman wearing a protective mask uses her mobile phone, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread in Turin, Italy. The original epicentre of the virus outbreak in Europe, Italy has the world's highest coronavirus death toll with more than 22,000 fatalities, second only to the United States. — Reuters

MILAN: Italy plans to use a smartphone app developed by tech startup Bending Spoons to track people who test positive for the new coronavirus as part of efforts to lift its nationwide lockdown.

The original epicentre of the virus outbreak in Europe, Italy has the world's highest coronavirus death toll with more than 22,000 fatalities, second only to the United States.

Though the government last week extended the national lockdown until May 3, it is looking at ways of loosening the draconian restrictions imposed more than a month ago to curb the epidemic.

"We are working to test a contact-tracing app in some Italian regions," Domenico Arcuri, the government's special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, told state broadcaster RAI late on Thursday.

Smartphone apps and other technology have been widely used in Asian countries such as Singapore and South Korea to help rein in contagion, but there have been deep misgivings in Europe over the potential for data abuse and privacy violations.

Arcuri said the aim is to make the app available to the entire country after the regional testing.

"It will be a pillar of our strategy to deal with the post-emergency phase," Arcuri said.

Italy's Innovation Ministry launched a tender last month for app developers volunteering their services. It received hundreds of proposals, from which a special committee selected the Bending Spoons product, a decree from the special commissioner showed.

Virus alerts

Milan-based Bending Spoons, which develops apps ranging from fitness to video-editing tools, is part of the Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) initiative.

PEPP-PT is promoting a European platform to allow national contact-tracing apps 'talk' to each other across borders.

The Bending Spoons application, initially named Immuni, uses Bluetooth technology to record when users are in close proximity with each other, people with knowledge of the matter said.

If someone tests positive for the coronavirus, the app could send an alert to users who have been in contact with the infected individual, recommending actions such as self-quarantine and virus testing while preserving anonymity.

Advocates of Bluetooth technology say this method is a more accurate and less intrusive way to log proximity and the length of contact than location-tracking based on networks or satellites, which have been used in some Asian countries.

Arcuri said the app will be used voluntarily, in line with recommendations by Italy's data protection authority and European privacy rules.

"But we hope our citizens will adopt it massively, as their support is needed to make a contact-tracing system work," he added.

Experts say the app would need to be downloaded by at least 60% of the population to help to achieve so-called digital herd immunity. — Reuters

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!
   

Next In Tech News

Mastercard loses UK ruling on three million dead claimants in $12 billion case
Spotify, Epic Games get ally in Musk in fight against Apple fees
Cyber Monday sets sales record as shoppers splurge on toys, electronics- report
Italy seeks new options for TIM after bid for network put on hold
Vietnam smartphone exports fall ahead of Christmas as Samsung cuts output
From Amazon to Meta to Twitter: The US tech companies cutting jobs
Musk threatens war with Apple, jeopardising vital relationship
Hyundai Motor, SK On sign EV battery supply pact for N. America
Foxconn offers more bonuses to win back iPhone city staff
Russia's Kudrin to leave Audit Chamber, opening door to Yandex move

Others Also Read