Linux Foundation Public Health Initiative (LFPHI) to fight COVID-19 and future potential pandemics

Health Tech

By Shrey Fadia, Analyst and Consultant, Artin Arts

The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates innovation through open source, recently launched an initiative in July, called Linux Foundation Public Health Initiative (LFPHI).

LFPHI is supporting projects like “COVID Shield” and “COVID Green” to improve interoperability across various initiatives. With this capability, different state-level applications in the USA should be able to able to communicate data and exchange information with each other to stay updated.

Dan Kohn, LFPH general manager, said, “While we’re excited to launch with two very important open source projects, we think our convening function to enable collaboration to battle this pandemic may be our biggest impact.”

During this global pandemic, many tech companies are rushing into building applications that can notify people about potential exposure locations. The Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) system will tell people if they have come in close proximity to people diagnosed with COVID-19.

However, privacy is the biggest concern in these applications and that lack of trust has led people to resist such applications. One of the examples is Australia’s contact tracing app, which had some feature bugs and that limited its adoption. On the other hand, Norway blocked the contact tracing app over privacy issues by its data protection authority.

“The public health infrastructure in the U.S. has been radically under-invested in for the last 20 years,” said Kohn. “Now there’s understandably billions of dollars flowing into that space, and as a neutral open-source organization, we hope to help monitor and shape some of those investments in ways that ensure they’re interoperable,” or compatible.

COVID Shield was developed by a volunteer team at Shopify and will be deployed soon in Canada. A team developed COVID Green at NearForm as part of the Irish Government’s response to the pandemic. After being deployed by Ireland’s Health Services, about 1/3rd of the country’s adults accepted it, which is remarkable.

“During this grave global crisis, I’m committed to having all parts of the Linux Foundation community support LFPH,” said Linux Foundation executive director Jim Zemlin. “Open source provides an architecture for global collaboration, and that’s what’s needed to build, secure, and sustain critical components of our stressed public health infrastructure. The Linux Foundation has long enabled cross-industry collaboration in over a dozen verticals, and Dan Kohn, who led the Cloud Native Computing Foundation to rapid growth that defined a multi-billion-dollar industry, is an ideal choice to lead this effort.”

Looking at the efforts made by LFPHI, it seems that Linux Foundation will offer more ways to coordinate not just with this ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 but also potential future pandemic. The most important key in making this successful is public adoption and their perception of such applications, and that may be solved by addressing privacy concerns in the future.

About the author:  Shrey Fadia is an engineer, analyst, consultant and writer covering the most disruptive fields in technology today including AI, IoT, Blockchain, Cybersecurity, Communications Platforms as a Service and more, with a special interest in innovations that improve lives. While working towards his Master of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, NY, Fadia has published numerous articles on advances in software-based solutions in several industry publications. 

While working towards his undergraduate degree in engineering in India, Fadia and a team of other students developed a Smart Wheelchair leveraging sensors and affordable features including retrofitting existing equipment to make mobility possible using gesture mechanisms and obstacle avoidance. Their innovation was featured at an IoT Evolution World Expo in 2017. Fadia is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant at State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, NY while consulting for companies as a Senior Analyst for strategic tech communications firm Artin Arts, based in NYC.