Responsible for the provision of public health services for all people living in Ireland, the Health Service Executive manages a varied range of programmes and services across the country, working in close partnership with the Department of Health and other agencies. Additionally, the website hse.ie provides important resource links, information and health advice for the Irish public.
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and hard-hit countries across Europe took increasingly bold measures to ‘flatten the curve’, the HSE explored new tools and resources to help manage the disease and bolster the health system in Ireland.
The use of existing Bluetooth technology in smartphones to support contact tracing — considered one of the most important activities for controlling the spread of coronavirus — emerged as a potentially life-saving option. So the HSE began looking for a partner to develop a contact tracing app for Ireland, one that would be reliable, secure and easy for the public to use. And it needed to be built in just weeks.
The sun was shining the afternoon of Sunday, 22 March, when NearForm got a call from the HSE. They wanted to build a contact tracing app for Ireland and had heard we have the capability and expertise to develop one quickly and to the highest quality.
The team came together that same afternoon, setting up a virtual command centre and kicking off a fully remote, design-led workshop with the HSE and Department of Health to outline the requirements, scope and functionality of the app. We relied on the same tools we use every day as a dispersed company, collaborating and communicating using Zoom and Miro, as well as Sketch and InVision for prototyping.
A broad, collaborative team including NearForm, the HSE, Department of Health, Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO), An Garda Síochána and more quickly identified the user needs and data concerns for the app, and got to work. It was widely reported that the code for Singapore’s app would be open-sourced for other governments to replicate; however, that process was ongoing. The decision was made to start with a fresh build.
The team pushed hard into the night and Monday morning presented a prototype with a full user journey and onboarding sequence. We now had the basis of a working app that could be scrutinised and tested.