no, the StopCovid tracking application has not already been put online

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An application with the same name as that imagined by the French government has been abundantly downloaded by owners of smartphones. In reality, this is not the tracing system promised by Edouard Philippe, but an Austrian program developed for the Georgian authorities.

The application StopCovid would it already be available, a few days from May 11, the date announced for the start of deconfinement? The Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, however slipped, Tuesday April 28 before the National Assembly, that “uncertainties” still surrounded the controversial digital tracking tool envisaged by the government in order to fight against the spread of the coronavirus in France.

Smartphone owners have discovered with surprise the existence of a Stop Covid application in the application stores of Google and Apple. It is also a huge success. The program ranks fourth in “trends” in the “health and fitness” category of the Google Play Store. On the AppleStore, the software even climbs to third place in the classification of the “medicine” category.

The Stop Covid application is in 4th position in the “Health and fitness” trends for Android. (SCREEN CAPTURE / GOOGLE PLAY STORE)

This Stop Covid application is actually only a namesake of the future French program. The software was launched in mid-April by the Georgian Ministry of Health, as indicated by its file in the Apple AppStore. Stop Covid is only available in Georgian and English, not French.

The Georgian Ministry of Health's Stop Covid app sheet in the Apple AppStore, April 30, 2020.
The Georgian Ministry of Health’s Stop Covid application sheet in the Apple AppStore, April 30, 2020. (FRANCEINFO)

This disambiguation has misled many users. Some have even left negative reviews. “Thank you Edouard Philippe for the app, wrote one user. You can put a language that we can understand. Thank you.” The Georgian Ministry of Health was moved. “The application is intended for the republic of Georgia (…) Our team would be grateful if you could modify your rating”, he replies.

Comments from French users of the Georgian Stop Covid app left on the Google Play Store.
Comments from French users of the Georgian Stop Covid app left on the Google Play Store. (SCREEN CAPTURE / GOOGLE PLAY STORE)

This Caucasian country of less than 4 million inhabitants is not spared the pandemic: as of April 29, 517 cases have been identified, including six deaths, according to the American University Johns Hopkins. Wishing to curb the epidemic, the local authorities therefore contacted the Austrian association NOVID20 (link in English) who, with the Viennese company Dolphin Technologies, developed a royalty-free application (link in English).

“The Georgian Ministry of Health contacted us at the end of March. It wanted to launch an application quickly”, tells franceinfo Lothar Stadler, NOVID20 partnership manager. The operation of the Georgian Stop Covid is simple. “To report their contamination, people must identify themselves.” Only the phone number is requested. “The data is then transferred to the Georgian Ministry of Health, which verifies that the declarations have been made via a Georgian telephone number, and deletes them if this is not the case.” To find out if you have contacted someone who has declared themselves infected, the application uses Bluetooth, GPS and data from your sports or health applications. Each user has a unique identifier.

After “a test started on April 6”, the program went online ten days later, after a press conference (link in English). Harald Trautsch, founder of Dolphin Technologies, does not hide his surprise: “In just one day, there were 150,000 downloads, or 5% of the country’s smartphone users. We were very surprised, Georgia being a small country.” This figure has now reached 200,000, according to the entrepreneur.

Because there is no Georgian version of the Google Play Store or the AppStore, unlike in France, “We had to make Stop Covid available worldwide”, Georgian smartphone users connecting to foreign application stores, Harald Trautsch told franceinfo. The entrepreneur admits to having been surprised to count France among the most important places of dissemination of the application. Hence its place in the trends of the AppStore. According to our information, this ranking is based on the only number of downloads of the application.

The disappointment of the French who downloaded the Georgian Stop Covid can be explained very simply. “A French user can install it on his smartphone, but it only works in Georgia”, Says Lothar Stadler. Today, NOVID20 and Dolphin Technologies continue to develop the application for the Georgian State and are in discussions with twelve countries to introduce local versions. Countries of the Near East, Africa and Europe, “but not France”, Says Lothar Stadler, admitting to having “past the deadline” of the government call for projects.

Contacted by franceinfo, the Secretary of State for Digital, Cédric O, confirms that this Stop Covid is not the French application. StopCovid (without space) will enter “in test from the week of May 11”, he says. “We actually have a schedule that allows obtaining an application in the second part of May”, confirmed Thursday Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, director of innovation at Orange, during a press conference. The Secretary of State said that the application will not be downloadable by the general public at this stage. How will the government manage to ensure that future users differentiate the French application from the Georgian version, whose names are only distinguished in the space between Stop and Covid? “At this stage, we are not there yet”, Sweeps Cédric O.

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