Covid-19: Germany taps SAP, Deutsche Telekom for contact tracing app


  • Mobile apps
  • Tuesday, 28 Apr 2020

A cyclist stops to check her phone as others walk along the banks of the Landwehr canal in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district as the sun shines on April 10, 2020 amid the new coronavirus pandemic. Germany said Sunday it would opt for a decentralised solution to help monitor those who have contracted Covid-19 and alert people who have come into contact with the infected patients. — AFP

The German government has brought in SAP SE and Deutsche Telekom AG to help develop an app to trace Covid-19 infections as European governments look to national champions to help build solutions to the pandemic.

"Deutsche Telekom and SAP will play their part in Germany and throughout Europe to ensure that European digital technologies are a central component in the effective fight against coronavirus,” SAP said on April 27 in an email.

Other parties will also be involved in the creation of the app, a person familiar with the situation said, without giving names of the other parties involved. SAP referred questions on the status of the project to the government.

Governments have been debating how to monitor citizens to help slow the spread of the virus, using home-built systems or building on top of a framework created by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google. In the UK, the National Health Service said Monday that it would build its own app, joining countries like Australia and Singapore.

Germany said Sunday it would opt for a decentralised solution to help monitor those who have contracted Covid-19 and alert people who have come into contact with the infected patients. A group of German startups also had been in talks with the government about developing an app that would help trace people who have been exposed to the virus.

Under a decentralised system, contact-tracing apps collect anonymous data about nearby mobile phones using Bluetooth technology through tools such as those being built by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google. Once an infection is confirmed, that information is sent to a server. People with devices using the app could learn if they had been in proximity to a confirmed infection without revealing the patient’s identity.

"A decentralised solution would create more trust among users,” Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Monday.

Germany’s decision throws weight behind proponents of that approach who’ve clashed with supporters of a centralised method, which, by contrast, could allow someone’s contacts to be uploaded to government servers where authorities would then decide who to inform of a possible infection. Privacy supporters have opposed that method, saying it hands too much information to authorities that could be used for other, more malicious reasons after the crisis passes. – Bloomberg

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