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Northern Ireland becomes the first UK nation to launch a successful COVID-19 contact tracing app

The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has released its contact tracing mobile application, which is available on both Android and iOS.

The app, StopCOVID NI, will automatically tell users in Northern Ireland if they have been near someone who tests positive for COVID-19. The first app of its kind to be released in the UK, the app is designed to help slow or stop the spread of coronavirus.

The creation of the app has been the result of a major joint effort between a number of partners and key stakeholders.

Digital Health & Care NI, Belfast based design consultants Big Motive, software developers NearForm, quality services consultancy Expleo and numerous government bodies including the NISRA, NICCY, RNIB & ICO all collaborated to create a world-leading solution for Northern Ireland. 

The app was created using a human-centred design approach, a process that was lead by local design consultancy, Big Motive. At the earliest stage possible, prototypes of the app were designed and tested with the public. Every component and detail was trialled; from the on-boarding process to the language used throughout. This allowed for feedback and insights to be collected and implemented iteratively – a truly human-centred approach to the design of the app. 

So how does the app work?

In its simplest terms, if you are in close contact with an app user who has added a positive COVID-19 test result to their app, you will be notified automatically. You won’t know who, when or where because the app will never collect this information and will never know users’ identity or location.

If you test positive for COVID-19 you can add that result to the app. This will notify other app users that you have been in close contact with them.

The app uses the ‘Exposure Notification API’ developed by Apple and Google in a joint effort to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of COVID-19 through contact tracing, with user privacy and security core to the design. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘decentralised’ model.

If you test positive for COVID-19 you will get a code by SMS text message from ‘HSCresult’. When you put that code into this app you will be asked to share the random IDs that your phone has been swapping with other app users over the last 14 days. If you agree, these ‘diagnosis keys’ will allow the app to tell those people that they have been exposed to COVID-19.

So that you can use this app when travelling abroad it will securely share ‘diagnosis keys’ with other countries. This also means that apps used by visitors from those countries will work here.

Since its release on Thursday 30th July, the app is listed as the #1 medical app in the App Store with a total of 50,000 downloads in the first 24 hours.

In addition to StopCOVID NI, the department has also released the latest version of the COVID-19 symptom checker and information app, now called COVIDCare NI. 

COVIDCare NI is dedicated primarily to providing the NI public with the latest advice and guidance on COVID-19 and once again was created using the human-centred design process by Big Motive, international software development company Civica and the Department of Health’s digital team.

Simple to use, COVIDCare NI has three main functions;

  • An in-app symptom checker for COVID-19, providing the user with personalised advice
  • A dedicated advice search to answer user questions and,
  • A push notification service with the ability to alert users to changes in any official status or advice related to COVID-19

The HSC’s COVID-19 website supports both apps which are available to download now on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.


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