Linux Foundation open-sources coronavirus tracing apps

The projects, based on the Google and Apple API, aim to support public health contact tracing efforts

The Linux Foundation has launched two contact tracing systems as part of a public health initiative which uses open source technology to help government agencies fight the spread of coronavirus across the world.

Two exposure notification projects, known as COVID Shield and COVID Green, have been developed based on the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) system, and aim to support all public health authorities’ contact tracing efforts.

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They have been developed as part of the wider Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH) initiative, launched in coordination with seven members including Cisco, doc.ai, Geometer, IBM, NearForm, Tencent and VMware. 

"To catalyze this open source development, Linux Foundation Public Health is building a global community of leading technology and consulting companies, public health authorities, epidemiologists and other public health specialists, privacy and security experts, and individual developers," said LFPH general manager Dan Kohn. 

"While we're excited to launch with two very important open source projects, we think our convening function to enable collaboration to battle this pandemic may be our biggest impact."

COVID Shield, which was developed by a team of more than 40 developers from Shopify, is currently being deployed in Canada. COVID Green, meanwhile, was developed by a team at NearForm and is being deployed as part of the Irish government’s pandemic response.

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Both apps are available for other public health agencies, and their IT partners, across the world to use and customised, and will soon be joined by further open source projects hosted by LFPH. 

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"During this grave global crisis, I'm committed to having all parts of the Linux Foundation community support LFPH," said Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin. "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.”

The LFPH is positioning itself as an organisation that can support public health agencies across the world that have suffered from a lack of investment and are now being tasked with urgently scaling their operations and capabilities.

The UK, for example, has had a rough time trying to develop a functional contact tracing app, with the government initially opting to abandon a system supported by Google and Apple, before making a complete u-turn. Although a coronavirus app is now in progress, there is still no date by which a functioning app will be released, with ministers suggesting a Winter target for release.

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