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Technology vs Covid: The Present and Future of Covid Apps


Isadora Teich wrote this article


During these difficult times, many of the world’s innovators and creators are coming together to create solutions. Even as vaccines start to become available globally, they will not be an instant solution for a host of reasons.

One of the main reasons being that many people around the world will not have access to them.

Also, covid has sparked vast change in society, which is unlikely to disappear even as vaccines become more and more prevalent. It has changed how, where, and when we work. It has shed light on societal problems and has caused widespread disruption.

In these times, I think it’s important to take stock of all of the brilliant work being done to solve problems every so often.

More and more tools are available that could be potentially lifesaving, but it seems that many people are unaware of them, or unwilling to use them.

Let’s take a look.

Why Is This Covid-Fighting Tool A Secret?

Did you know that many Americans already have access to a powerful Covid-fighting tool on their phones? It’s currently available to 150 million Americans, including all California residents.

You can get direct notifications from local health authorities whenever you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

However, a big problem with this system is that it only works with widespread use.

Little has been been done to raise awareness of these tools. For example, Virginia’s Covidwise app was not used by the state’s population throughout the entire fall.

Only 488 people used the state’s app to send alerts about a positive diagnosis to others in the entire season. Currently, Virginia has topped 300,000 cases.

While some people place the blame on individuals, it is very likely that many people have no idea that these capabilities may already exist within their phone, are completely anonymous, and can be activated in about 5 minutes. Many states have their own versions of this app.

Do you know if your state has one and what it’s called? You can discover which app you can access and how to turn it on here.

UK Adds Self-isolation Payment Feature To Covid-tracing App

In December 2020, the NHS covid-tracing app in the UK started offering some users monetary compensation when covid-exposure forces them to self-isolate.

Experts say that if people refuse to self-isolate because they cannot afford to, the system cannot work and people are put in danger needlessly. They hope that this motivates people to download and use the app.

During the pandemic, England and Wales have allowed low-income individuals, who don’t work from home, to apply for financial help if they received self-isolation orders. These could officially be received by phone call, email, letter, or text message telling them to self-isolate.

However, there was a hole in this. Before, it didn’t cover people who had received the app notification telling them to isolate. This was largely because the app is designed to protect privacy.

It keeps the identity of anyone receiving alerts private.

However, this has been solved with a new financial support button that appears after users receive a self-isolation alert.

Singapore Companies Testing Digital Health Passports

Singapore companies are starting to pilot the use of digital health passports to verify travelers’ COVID-19 test results.

The country is gradually reopening its borders and hopes to potentially expedite the process of entry.  One start-up, backed by Temasek, says it is working with government agencies and the private sector on digital health passport trials.

So, how exactly would a digital health passport work? They essentially allow clinics and hospitals to share healthcare data instantly across international borders in a secure manner, getting around red tape. Technology like blockchain makes this possible.

First, prospective travelers take a COVID-19 test at a healthcare provider who works with these apps in their country. Then, developers issue a QR code with their test results. Travelers show the QR code directly to immigration authorities. When scanned, officers can see a host of details. These include what type of tests were taken, and whether they were performed in the required timeframe.

The Controversial Future of Global Digital Health Passports

If this technology becomes widespread in the future, it may spread beyond immigration checkpoints and beyond Covid. For example, showing a negative covid-result may be compulsory in casual settings, such as entering events. After mass-vaccination, showing that you are vaccinated may become compulsory for entering schools and jobs.

While President Xi-Jinping of China has been trying to urge other world leaders to join him in creating and using global borderless Covid QR codes, it seems unlikely that this would ever happen.

While purely from a logical standpoint, this is the most practical solution, global politics make it impossible.

Currently, the US and China are in a sort of silent technology cold war. It rather absurdly exploded across international headlines over the popular social media app TikTok this year.

However, there is a lot more going on than just that. It has been proven that China has monitored citizens abroad illegally via apps. India has also banned a number of their apps, and the US is trying to pressure other nations to abandon Chinese tech. If you want to learn more about this, check out our blog post.

Some critics also say that Digital Health Passports could also unfairly exclude people from travel and workplaces. While they have the potential to reopen the economy and solve some problems, they could create others in the future.

It is important to take all of this into account.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the effects of Covid on the future of technology and society have already been profound. We are looking at a future full of changes, even if we don’t know exactly what shape they will take yet.

Many countries around the world have taken different approaches to using tech to fight covid, with mixed results.

Many western democracies have proven unwilling to use covid-tracking apps en masse, or follow health measures that compromise personal liberties.

And, while a unified global app that traces Covid would be the ultimate practical solution, as diseases do not recognize borders, it is likely not feasible to create one due to political divides and mistrust amongst world governments.

Do you think there will be better luck when it comes to creating globally accepted health passports via an app? Do you think this is a good idea and will become a staple around the world in the future?

Comment below.

About Since 2009, we have helped create 350+ next-generation apps for startups, Fortune 500s, growing businesses, and non-profits from around the globe. Think Partner, Not Agency.


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