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Ireland donates Covid-19 app code to Linux

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The Irish government has donated the code for its comparatively successful coronavirus contact-tracing app to the Linux Foundation Public Health Initiative.

Contact-tracing apps send alerts to people who may have been recently exposed to the Covid-19 virus by a person who has tested positive, building records of contacts detected by Bluetooth. The Covid Tracker Ireland app is decentralised, meaning that personal data does not leave an individual’s device.

The app, which was developed by NearForm for the Irish Health Services Executive (HSE), has been downloaded by more than 30 per cent of the population of Ireland. The source code has been used to build similar apps for countries and other territories across Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East.

Now, the HSE has confirmed that it has donated the code to the newly established Linux Foundation Public Health Initiative, under the Apache License 2.0. This will allow any other government to build their own Covid-19 tracking apps using the source code (named 'Covid Green') as a foundation.

“We are pleased to contribute Covid Green, the open-source code behind Ireland’s Covid Tracker app, to Linux Foundation Public Health,” said HSE CIO Fran Thompson. “This app is a great demonstration of innovation within the Irish health sector, combined with the IT capabilities of the Irish software industry.”

“We’re immensely proud of the work we’ve undertaken in partnership with NearForm in responding to the pandemic. We are looking forward to collaborating with other public health authorities around the world via Linux Foundation Public Health to assist them in quickly replicating our approach while learning from their experiences.”

As part of the agreement, NearForm will manage the source code repository on GitHub. NearForm said that it is “honoured” to be part of the initiative.

Covid Green is one of two initial open-source projects by the foundation to help fight Covid-19 with digital tools; the second is an alternative exposure notification tool called Covid Shield. Covid Shield was built by a team of volunteers and is currently being deployed in Canada and several US states.

The foundation will begin by focusing on apps that use the decentralised model, supported by the Exposure Notification API developed by Google and Apple.

The Linux Foundation’s director, Jim Zemlin, commented: “Open source provides an architecture for global collaboration and that’s what’s needed to build, secure, and sustain critical components of our stressed public health infrastructure.”

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