LFPH: New Initiative to Help Fight Pandemic and Future Epidemics

By Grace Stewart , Aug 06, 2020 06:29 AM EDT

Two contact tracing apps have been successfully launched recently in Canada and Ireland. The open-source code underlying these apps has contributed to a newly launched initiative. The aim is to help other countries and U.S. states in the fight against the pandemic. 

LFPH aims to help public health officials fight coronavirus pandemic and future epidemics

On July 20, 2020, The Linux Foundation launched a new project, the Linux Foundation Public Health initiative. LFPH uses open-source software to help public health authorities (PHAs) worldwide fight against COVD-19 and future epidemics.

The new Linux Foundation Public Health initiative was launched with seven Premier members: Cisco,, Geometer, IBM, NearForm, Tencent, and VMware. The first effort of its kind, LFPH, brings together industry, open-source technologies, public health, academia, and government. The initiative aims to further the contact tracing, which is critical to safely restarting and reopening of economies.

"To catalyze this open-source development, Linux Foundation Public Health is building a global community of leading technology and consulting companies, public health authorities, epidemiologists and other public health specialists, privacy and security experts, and individual developers," LFPH general manager, Dan Kohn, said. 

"While we're excited to launch with two critical open source projects, we think our convening function to enable collaboration to battle this pandemic may be our biggest impact," Kohn added. 

Initially, the initiative will focus on exposure notification applications that utilize the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) system. Eventually, the LFPH initiative will expand to support all aspects of PHAs testing, tracing, and isolation activities.

LFPH's first hosted exposure notifications projects, COVID Shield and COVID Green, are now deployed in Canada, Ireland, and some U.S. states. Both apps are available for other PHAs and their I.T. partners to use and customize. 

COVID Shield was developed by a team of more than 40 volunteers at Shopify and the members of Ontario and the Canadian Digital Services. The technology is made up of a mobile app, a server, and a web-based results portal. The COVID Alert mobile app has been rolled out and made available to Canadians for free download last July 30, 2020. 

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COVID Shield volunteer, Aaron Olson, said that they welcome contributions from other developers that will make it as easy as possible for PHAs to get started with exposure notifications.

COVID Green was developed by Irish developer NearForm. Approximately 1.3 million residents have downloaded the contact tracing app within 36 hours of launch on July 7, 2020. The app uses Bluetooth technology that was developed by Google and Apple.

Fran Thompson, Chief Information Officer of Ireland's Health Service Executive, said they are pleased to contribute COVID Green to LFPH. He said that the app is an excellent demonstration of innovation within the Irish health sector combined with the I.T. capabilities of the Irish software industry. 

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Meanwhile, the TCN Coalition, an earlier cross-industry collaboration effort, is merging into LFPH. The TCN Coalition is a community of technologists from around the globe. They support the development of privacy-preserving and cross-compatible exposure notification apps. All these during the coronavirus pandemic.

TCN Coalition Executive Director Jenny Wanger believes that collaborating with Linux Foundation is a logical next step for the work they have been doing since their inception. Wanger now serves as the Head of the Implementer's Forum for LFPH.

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