As of 2 May, the HOIA mobile phone app will cease to function, after having been downloaded by more than 300,000 Estonians and having been used to notify users that they had come into close contact with individuals who had been infected with COVID-19.
“The HOIA app was brought into use at the beginning of the pandemic, when there were no vaccines available, but it was hugely necessary to warn people about the virus,“ explained Kerstin-Gertrud Kärblane, development manager at the Health Board’s Analysis and Development Centre. “Now the app has served its purpose, and people are far more aware of what to do to protect themselves. We would like to thank everyone who has used the application and who was involved in bringing it to life. It was of great help,“ said Kärblane.
As of May, free PCR testing will only be available for the elderly and for anyone who belongs to a risk group. For HOIA to function, however, infected individuals must indicate that they have received a positive PCR test result, which will become much rarer now.
Kärblane says that responsibility regarding COVID-19 infections now lies mainly on the individuals themselves. “Instead of waiting for the state to notify you, you should proceed based on common practice where communicable diseases are involved,“ explained Kärblane, adding that anyone should stay at home if they have developed the symptoms of any viral disease, and should notify close contacts themselves if they have been infected with COVID-19. If necessary, get in touch with your family physician to be granted a certificate to show your incapacity for work.
The HOIA app was developed within the space of a few months at the beginning of the pandemic, as part of a cooperative process between 12 companies and the government. According to Tanel Tera, Head of e-services at the national Health and Welfare Information Systems Centre, it was a landmark cooperation project which result in the most-downloaded mobile phone app in Estonian history.
“For example, in order to make possible the development of the HOIA app, Google and Apple added brand new functions to their systems. This mobile phone app was the first ever to include a system of random codes which are not related in any way to personal data or the location of the user,“ explained Tera to prove the point that the app’s development was indeed possible thanks to contributions from the brightest individuals and experts in Estonia’s technology sector, as well as thanks to international cooperation.
“HOIA is a good example of the state and the private sector being able to quickly develop world class solutions together. Even so, we must be able to determine a point at which a solution has served its purpose and there is no longer any real need to keep it going,” said Tera, adding that he was grateful to the entire team for the work they had done.