The Bulgarian authorities have given their blessing to an initiative by local IT developers who created a mobile app aimed at creating a real-time link between citizens and health authorities. The developers told EURACTIV they are ready to make the application available for other countries for a symbolic one euro.
On 4 April, the concept for the ViruSafe app was presented at a televised government briefing in the presence of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, Health Minister Kiril Ananiev and other officials from the national headquarters for fighting COVID-19. On 7 April, the app was already available for download in Bulgaria for free from the Apple Store and Google Play.
According to its developers, ViruSafe offers a reliable link between Bulgarian citizens and state health institutions, and also represents an intelligent tool for predictive modelling of the disease’s spread and growth.
Bulgaria is recognised as a one of Europe’s leading hubs for innovations in the IT industry.
Compared to other EU countries, Bulgaria is experiencing fewer cases of COVID-19. The containment measures are generally enforced and wearing a mask outside is obligatory. On Sunday, Bulgaria had a total of 669 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with a total death toll of 28.
How does the app work?
The first step is a validation via SMS. The user must enter their personal ID or passport number, so the linkage is established to their government records, including contacts with general practitioners or other health officials.
The user is invited to agree to terms and conditions, including personal data records in full compliance with the EU directives. A special prompt is used for sharing GPS coordinates.
The user enters their symptoms, like temperature, dry cough, difficulty in breathing and chest pain (if applicable). The general practitioner receives the processed data automatically and decides if and when to intervene. The sharing of location coordinates helps to dispatch the patient to the nearest specialised hospital location where there is free capacity.
Users can submit their symptoms several times a day if they have any, while ‘no symptoms’ is also considered a valid and important input.
The personal health data records are kept as strictly confidential information in the central register (also owned by the health authorities).
“We are proud of what we achieved in just two weeks. We managed to develop a fully secure and compliant app which lets users log their daily symptoms and send data to the health,” Plamen Tsekov, CEO of ScaleFocus, the company that developed the app pro bono, told EURACTIV.
The application is part of a bigger national system that is being built together with several other IT companies in a 24/7 development environment.
ScaleFocus is making available for non-commercial use the ViruSafe application under opensource license, so the code and the approach can be freely used by other governments and nations in their battle against COVID-19.
“We are ready to make it available to any government – for one euro, he said.
More information on the opensource project, as well as related artifacts, are available at http://virusafe.info