Latvia: first experiences with tracking app
Last Friday Latvia became the first EU country to launch a Covid-19 tracing app for tracking chains of infection. The state-run app is based on a new programming interface jointly developed by Google and Apple in reaction to the pandemic. However only around 40,000 people have downloaded the app so far.
Like a Pokemon game
For Neatkarīgā the app has been a flop so far:
“Only a limited number of people have downloaded 'StopCovid'. Not everyone has a smartphone. If the model is not modern enough, the app will not be accepted. Some people won't download the app because they believe the tool comes from the government, which just wants to regulate everything and punish us, and whose help we can't count on anyway. Now there are many people on the streets, on public transport and in the hospitals and polyclinics, and they may well be infectious, but no app will track their activities. ... The app looks like a Pokemon game, and it can only be played by people who own a smartphone and are interested in playing the game.”
Like our daily hygiene
Ieva Ilvesa, the former head of the cyber security policy department at the Latvian Ministry of Defence, explains in Delfi how important the Covid tracing app is:
“The app is a tool we can choose to use just as we choose our daily hygiene, keeping a two-metre distance and washing our hands with soap. This is our opportunity to help doctors, epidemiologists and scientists to overtake the virus. ... Today we trust the technologies and we know that our money will be transferred to the right account, that the fastest and most direct way to the entered address will be suggested and that we will be directed to the nearest pizzeria. Let's use this technology to protect ourselves from Covid-19 and listen to the country's chief epidemiologist: greater freedom calls for greater caution.”
An app for freedom?
Neatkarīgā does not quite agree with the statement by Latvia's Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš that society will now be free once more thanks to the tracing apps:
“Will the people who downloaded the app really enjoy a wonderful freedom? And will life without the app be bleak and colourless? Or could the tracking app become a passport that we show to border guards and police to prove that we don't have Covid-19? ... For this to happen a large number of people would have to install it, and all those who are ill would have to honestly enter their medical status. Even in digitally advanced Singapore, only 12 percent of the population has downloaded the 'TraceTogether' app. Without any obligation, little enthusiasm can be expected.”