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NIPH starts work on a new solution for digital contact tracing
On 19 August, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), together with the Norwegian Directorate of eHealth (NDE) was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Care Services to investigate the way forward for digital contact tracing.
– On behalf of the Ministry of Health and Care Services, we have looked at several different alternatives. We have decided on an Apple and Google solution, partly because this is in line with both international developments and recommendations from the EU, says Deputy Director General Gun Peggy Knudsen at the National Institute of Public Health.
The solution does not involve central storage of data. This makes the solution less privacy-intrusive than the Smittestopp app.
Smittestopp was among the alternatives
The app Smittestopp was developed in March, and was among the alternatives considered when moving forward. The app was one of the first in Europe launched for digital contact tracing, and was developed before Apple and Google started their work. In June, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (NDPA) announced a decision on a temporary ban on processing personal data collected by Smittestopp. This led to NIPH deleting all data and disabling the app.
– A continuation of the current Smittestopp app would require the introduction of two separate user consents, one for contact tracing and one for analytical purposes. As before, the app would also depend on central storage of data to provide good enough accuracy in contact tracing. This has been discussed, says Knudsen
There are several challenges and limitations in developing a new app based on the solution from Apple and Google.
– According to what several countries have reported to us when we have obtained information, the biggest concern is related to the fact that it is difficult to know whether the app works or not. Minimal data collection makes it difficult to track and measure utility value.
There is general uncertainty associated with the accuracy of digital contact tracing of “close contacts”. Also when using Bluetooth technology.
More efficient contact tracing
Digital contact tracing may be an efficient means as a supplement to traditional manual contact tracing, especially in situations of widespread transmission where there are many or many unknown close contacts.
– We will get the job done better than last time. Again, with good help from everyone who has shown their interest in assisting and everyone who wants to download an app. This can support contact tracing and make it more effective, says Deputy Director General Gun Peggy Knudsen at the National Institute of Public Health.
Work on the development of the new app will be put out to tender, and a solution may be ready before Christmas.