Estonia’s coronavirus exposure notification app “HOIA” was launchedApril 21, 2021
“I call on Estonian people to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and to help limit the spread of the virus privately and securely by using the application,” said Tanel Kiik, the Minister of Social Affairs. Starting August 20 the mobile app HOIA is available for download to your
“I call on Estonian people to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and to help limit the spread of the virus privately and securely by using the application,” said Tanel Kiik, the Minister of Social Affairs.
Starting August 20 the mobile app HOIA is available for download to your phone via www.hoia.me, helping to curb the spread of the coronavirus with the help of app users. The application notifies the user if he has been in close contact with an infected person. The phones of the users of the application exchange anonymous codes, and the state, the manufacturer of the application, or the manufacturer of the phone will not know who was in close contact with whom.
“The most effective way to limit the spread of the coronavirus is to stay at home and see a family doctor in case of symptoms of the disease and to keep a safe distance from other people when moving around. However, if we want to continue our usual life – go to work and school, theater and concerts, ride public transport or travel, then we will probably not always be able to keep a sufficient distance,” said Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik. “The Health Board will continue its daily work in identifying those infected and their close contacts, but everyone of us can also contribute to preventing the spread of the virus. The application of the coronavirus is one additional effective tool for all of us to reduce potential infectious contacts. I call on Estonian people to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and to help limit the spread of the virus privately and securely by using the application. ”
If any user of the application becomes ill, he or she will mark himself / herself (ie his/her anonymous code) as ill in the application and other users will be notified of a possible close contact with the infected person. The application notifies the person if he or she has been closer to an infected person than 2 metres for at least 15 minutes. The application also provides initial guidance on how to proceed. This way, the application can also inform people whom the infected person does not know or remember, allowing them to take steps to protect their own health and the health of others.
Special attention has been paid to privacy and security when developing the application. Phones communicate with each other using Bluetooth radio signals, exchanging codes that say nothing about the users of the application. Through the application, the state does not receive any information about the identity of those infected or their close contacts.
“We put the HOIA privacy solution in place even before the programming work started. People’s locations are not monitored and health data is processed only to check whether the person who claims to be infected with COVID-19 is really sick before sending notifications,” confirmed Dan Bogdanov, Member of the Management Board of Cybernetica AS. “The development of the HOIA application has set an example for other state IT-developments.”
The application was created in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs, The Health Board, the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center and 12 Estonian companies – Cybernetica, Fujitsu Estonia, Guardtime, Icefire, Iglu, Mobi Lab, Mooncascade, Velvet, FOB Solutions, Heisi IT OÜ, Bytelogics and ASA Quality Services OÜ. In addition, the Swiss DP-3T project team contributed to the development of the application, and the solution created by it is the basis of the Estonian application.
“The main function of the application is to inform the user if he or she may have been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19. However, information about a person’s infection and close contacts is private and cannot be disseminated. So we can say that by developing the application, we solved a kind of contradiction,” said Icefire software architect Aleksei Bljahhin. “We solved this contradiction thanks to the modern cryptography used by the application.”
For now the HOIA application can be used in Estonia. The next step is to start exchanging anonymous codes for close contacts also across borders, so that the application can be used also when traveling abroad.