The StopCOVID NI app is now available to 11-17-year-olds – in an important boost for the fight against Covid-19.
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.
The StopCOVID NI app was launched at the end of July, making it the first proximity app in the UK.
Its first version was for the 18 plus age group. Since then, meetings have been held with the Commissioner for Children & Young People, the Information Commissioner’s Office and representatives from the Children’s Law Centre, in order to ensure appropriate and safe access to the app for younger people, within the legal constraints of GDPR and safeguarding.
This has now been achieved with the newly updated version available from this week. It is believed to be the first proximity app in the world to be designed for use with this age group.
Extensive focus group work has been undertaken with a diverse range of young people aged 11-17 to help understand their views and concerns. This has helped shape a new and trusted version of the app that they can use with confidence. New designs have also been tested with young people ahead of the launch.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “This is a really positive and welcome development. The StopCOVID NI app is now available for teenage clicks and I am confident this will help push the download total above 500,000 and beyond.
“The more people with this app active on their smart phones, the more effective it will be. It will make a significant contribution to reducing the spread of the virus by speeding up notification of infection risk and advising self-isolation where required.
“I would reassure young people and everyone else that the app protects their privacy. The Government does not know who you are, where you are, or who you have been with.
“The app uses anonymised smartphone data to let you down you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
“As we face into a very difficult winter, we have to do everything we can to combat Covid-19. This app is part our fightback and I would urge everyone to download the app and keep it and their operating system up to date.”
The app was designed with the ICO code “Age appropriate design: a code of practice for online services” ensuring compliance well in advance of the code being enforceable on 2 September 2021. The app will not drain phone batteries as it uses low energy Bluetooth
Commenting on the launch of the StopCOVID NI App for 11-17 year olds, Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, said:
“I am satisfied and pleased that the rights of children and young people have been considered in its development and that it also protects their privacy.”
Speaking directly to young people the Commissioner said, “Your data will not be stored or shared with others and it will not be used to track you for any other purpose”.
She also responded to young people’s technology concerns saying: “The App has been designed so that it will only use a very small amount of your device’s data and battery.
“At the beginning of the Pandemic I spoke to you and said there is no longer adults and children, young and old, us and you, there is just us. We are in this together and we must work together to stay as safe and healthy as possible. This is as true now as it was back in March.
“Young people have a lower risk from the virus, but that does not mean you have NO risk. The App is an important step in helping to keep you, your family and your community safe, so I really want to encourage you to download and use it.”
Education Minister Peter Weir added: “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.”