Under-18s version of StopCOVID NI app now launched

  • The new inclusive of under 18s version of the ‘StopCOVID NI’ app is now available for download across Northern Ireland.

    The Department of Health contact-tracing app alerts close contacts of other users who have tested positive for the virus, with the aim of slowing the virus spread.

    Health Minister Robin Swann has predicted that “teenage clicks” will help take downloads for the app over the half million mark. The current total for downloads is close to 400,000.

    Although not intended exclusively for use in schools, Education Minister Peter Weir has encouraged pupils and schools in its uptake.

    In a letter sent to school principals, he called on schools to support the use of the app whilst acknowledging that successful uptake may require changes to schools’ existing mobile phone policies.

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    Minister Weir said: “I am keen to encourage uptake of the app amongst our young people in the 11-17 age group. 

    “I appreciate there may be a need for schools to review their mobile device policy to allow use of the app so have written to school leaders seeking their cooperation.

    “I support the view that the policy remains that mobile devices should not be used for other purposes in schools other than use of the ‘StopCOVID NI’ app.”

    The app was originally launched in July 2020 as an age 18+ app pending clarification on the legal position with regards to under 18s.

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    The Department of Health said that it has worked with the Children’s Commissioner, the Information Commissioner’s Office, and the Children’s Law Centre to ensure that younger people can access a version with age-appropriate design, and compliance with GDPR data laws.

    Koulla Yiasouma, the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, praised the work undertaken by the department in consulting with a range of young people, aged 11-17 from diverse backgrounds, in the design and development of the app.

    She added: “This is an excellent piece of work undertaken within a short time and provides a clear framework for next steps. The young people have said that there must be clear messages on the purpose of the app, data collection and tracking.”

    The app was designed with the ICO code “Age appropriate design: a code of practice for online services” which the Department of Health said ensured compliance well in advance of the code being enforceable on 2 September 2021.

    The department also said that the app will not drain phone batteries as it uses low energy Bluetooth

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    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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