Contact tracing app could become key in Jersey's long-term fight against Covid-19

An app to monitor the spread of coronavirus in Jersey is in the early stages of development.

The contact tracing app would enable islanders to be alerted via their mobile phones if they have been in close proximity with someone who has since developed coronavirus symptoms.

By alerting people to their potential risk, islanders would be able to take the necessary precautions before spreading the illness further.

The technology has been used in other countries.

It's relatively early days here, we think we may be able to use the technology in the way that other countries are using it, or looking at using it, such as the UK. At the moment we are developing a specification working with government, working with the digital sector to look at what Jersey needs.

Tony Moretta, CEO of Digital Jersey

For the app to work, 60% of the population who are active will need to adopt the technology and the collection of islanders' information would prompt concerns about data protection.

Paul Vane, Jersey's Deputy Information Commissioner, says steps must be taken to ensure the data is used for the sole purpose intended.

The public have to trust that their privacy rights and their security is going to be safeguarded, because we mustn't forget that even though the importance of saving lives is priority here the data protection rules still apply and those kinds of safeguard that we'd expect any organisation to put in place when mobilising any kind of technology that involves the use of personal data, have to be considered from the outset.

Paul Vane, Jersey's Deputy Information Commissioner

However, Tony Moretta says these concerns are taken seriously and everything will be done to safeguard people's privacy.

It's understandable that people will have concerns, but we can address them, so we need very clear messaging that there will not be any data protection concerns in the model we implement here in Jersey. This is not about tracking people's movements, it is not about government knowing where you are or where you've been. It's about a system making sure that it can get messages through quickly and accurately to people you may have come in contact with if they need advice.

Tony Moretta, CEO of Digital Jersey

The technology is still weeks away from being implemented, but the hope is that it will coincide with the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions.

A government spokesperson said that whilst digital solutions are being explored, nothing is being developed yet.