Uruguay, chosen by Google and Apple to fight Coronavirus        

The country is the first in Latin America to implement COVID-19 Exposure Notification API.
Publication date: 22/06/2020

As part of its successful strategy to control Coronavirus, Uruguay became the first country in the continent to integrate COVID-19 Exposure Notification API in a mobile application (Coronavirus.uy).

This advance is the result of the collaboration between a group of technicians and Uruguayan institutions, after the companies Google and Apple chose Uruguay to implement the system, along with three other countries.

The Coronvirus.uy application was developed by a large number of private companies and sponsored by the Uruguayan Agency for Electronic Government and Information and Knowledge Society (Agesic). It allows the user to consult in case of possible symptoms of the disease and its eventual referral to the corresponding medical provider.

"This first stage was very successful, very important for our country and put us at the forefront (in the use of digital tools) to manage the health emergency," said the Uruguayan Minister of Industry, Omar Paganini, at a press conference.

The new version of the application, which includes the Google and Apple Exposure Notification API, warns the person about possible exposure to the virus. To enable the alerts, the app asks for the user's explicit permission. Then, the person is notified in case of having remained closed to someone who later identified himself as having the COVID-19. This allows the user to receive prompt medical attention.

In addition, if a person receives a positive coronavirus test, he can communicate to the application server the codes that his cell phone issued in the last few days, so that these can be sent to other users. Upon receiving this code, the cell phone compares it with the ones it had previously captured, and in case of finding matches it will emit a warning that will alert of a possible exposure to the virus. Taking part in the application is anonymous and it presents all the security and privacy guarantees.

The Minister of Industry referred to this technology as "the digital surgical mask", which "allows progress towards a new normality, with greater mobility and contact of the population, complementing the other health measures".

With the new functionalities, the application is intended to help "defend the result obtained" by Uruguay, the minister said. The country achieved effective control of the pandemic thanks to the efforts and responsibility of its citizens, and now this app allows a rapid and effective response to any possible new outbreaks.

Uruguay at the forefront and acknowledged by Apple and Google CEOs

Paganini highlighted that the app's development is "a great milestone, which shows that our technological capabilities are very well developed and that we are working collaboratively in an exemplary manner".

The executive highlighted that "it is not common that companies like Google and Apple acknowledge this effort to a small country like Uruguay, as first level authorities of these companies have done".

In a letter to Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai highlighted Uruguay's "innovative approach to harnessing technology for social good", and congratulated the president on goverment's proactive efforts to ensure people's health and well-being.

"It has been a pleasure for Google to work with your government on the Exposure Notification Initiative. We greatly appreciate the determination and thoughtfulness that your team has brought to the engagement," Pichai said in his letter.

For his part, Apple's CEO Tim Cook, also congratulated the country on the launching of the new application in a letter sent to the Uruguayan president. "The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing an unprecedented economic and social response. We're hopeful that technology can help Uruguayan citizens stay safe, and to assist the Uruguayan economy continue to advance", he said. 

The executive also highlighted the interest in replicating the Uruguayan experience in other countries. "Apple looks forward to working closely with governments like yours on this project as we continue our collective efforts to fight the COVID-19 virus".

Together with two of the world's leading technology companies, Uruguay is taking a new step in its fight against Coronavirus. With the strong institutional backing given to the sector and thanks to the versatility and innovative character of its technicians, the country has become a technological benchmark and is the most advanced nation on the continent in this area.