WHO to launch Covid-19 tips app for Android, iOS

The WHO MyHealth app will offer alert notifications specific to your location, as well as the potential for “self-triage” tools

As we face this time of crisis together, one of the most important things we can do - aside from washing your hands and maintaining social distance - is combat misinformation with the truth. To that end, the World Health Organisation is preparing to launch an official Android, iOS and Web app for news, tips, alerts, and more to keep you informed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

There’s no shortage of information about the coronavirus pandemic: News sites cover every development, and sites like the Johns Hopkins map constantly update the number of global cases (246,276 as of this writing). But for the most urgent questions, there seem to be no answers. Is it possible that I caught the virus when I went out today? Did I cross paths with someone who’s infected? How prevalent is the coronavirus in my local community? And if I’m feeling sick, where can I go to get tested or find treatment?

The new app, currently set to be launched under the name “WHO MyHealth,” is to help you find answers to such questions. The project was originally proposed by a team of volunteer experts that have formed what they’re calling the “WHO Covid App Collective.” The team consists of former Google and Microsoft employees as well as WHO advisors and ambassadors, along with other industry experts and is led by  Daniel Kraft, a US-based physician and chair of medicine for the education company Singularity University and Ray Chambers, WHO ambassador for global strategy.

According to the current development roadmap, the group plans for the first, early version of the WHO MyHealth app to launch on both Android and iOS on Monday, 30 March. However, as the WHO app is being built as open source, the team behind the website 9to5google was able to get hands-on with an early work-in-progress version of the app, which primarily consists of the same Covid-19 related advice found in the organization’s recent WhatsApp chatbot.

Based on the app’s original design doc, there are plans for the WHO MyHealth app to offer alert notifications specific to your location, as well as the potential for “self-triage” tools that could help you diagnose whether your symptoms match those of Covid-19.

On an even grander scale, there are ambitions for those who have been directly affected by Covid-19 to offer the WHO with their Android or iPhone location history in an effort to perform “contact tracing,” to better understand the spread of the virus. However, given the obvious privacy concerns with sharing in-depth location history, it remains to be seen whether this feature will actually launch.

Leveraging existing technology like Google Maps, allows users to indicate whether they have been diagnosed or have come into contact with Covid-19 patients. In addition, request permission to track historic location data on their device.
Another interesting aspect of this story is that the WHO Covid App Collective initially built the app with Ionic React before switching to Google’s cross-platform Flutter SDK, not only for the mobile apps but also the web app. In fact, some individual members of Google’s Flutter and Dart teams have been voluntarily assisting and advising in the WHO app’s development.

That said, if you’re an experienced Flutter developer looking to make a positive impact on the world, you should also consider lending your own efforts to the team of volunteers that are actively building the official WHO MyHealth app.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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