State not yet willing to give up on coronavirus notification app HOIA

The HOIA app.
The HOIA app. Source: ERR

While Estonia's coronavirus notification application HOIA does not see much use and data is updated quite slowly, the state has not yet given up on putting the application to use.

ERR News wrote in August that "HOIA" has been created in voluntary cooperation between the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center and 12 Estonian companies with the purpose of informing close contacts of those infected with the coronavirus and to provide them with initial instructions on how to proceed.

As of Monday, the app has been downloaded 271,024 times with 5,894 registering themselves as infected. 948 of those cases are still active.

That is far too little for people who have downloaded the app to feel safe as an application such as HOIA requires a tighter network of application users to notify people of coming in contact with someone who is infected.

Critics have noted that the application is something like an orb, as in it does not belong to anyone. Technically, its administrator is the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center (TEHIK), but any activities regarding development have stalled for some time. For example: the state reduced the isolation requirement for close contacts from 14 days to ten in December. That information reached the app in March.

Entrepreneurs, who worked on developing the application and gave it over to the state, assumed the state would further develop the app, but in reality, it succumbed to the bureaucracy of state procurements. While it still sits in several peoples' pockets, the application has fallen into the shadows as and has no meaningful use.

The application is passive and it does not forward any information, it only notifies the person if they have come in contact with someone that is infected with the coronavirus. But since there are not many users for the app, that function is limited.

The state is not yet willing to throw in the towel for HOIA just yet, however.

"We will continue developing the application. HOIA is currently the only tool that helps identify and notify close contacts," said TEHIK spokesperson Karilin Engelbrecht.

"TEHIK will remain HOIA's administrator and host, a development partner is currently being searched for. The plan is to wait for the procurement to finish. The procurement is on its final stretch, we are planning on making a decision in the first half of this week, followed by a challenge period of ten days and a waiting period of 14 days," Engelbrecht added.

The procurement, announced for two years, costs a total of €600,000. "But this does not mean developments will be ordered in the entire capacity. The procurement will result in a framework contract with the winner from whom works will be ordered from," Engelbrecht added.

TEHIK can shed no more light on state procurements as it give one contestant an edge over another.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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