The coronavirus epidemic is spreading at a rapid rate in South Korea with more than 2,900 confirmed cases in the country, making it the largest outbreak outside of mainland China, where the majority of the cases have been reported.
As one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, as soon as the deadly outbreak made its way to the Korean peninsula, developers didn't waste any time in rolling out apps to help people prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Smartphone apps that help in tracking the disease in South Korea dominated the list of top 15 downloads on the country's Google Play Store this week. Some of the app's developers, who obtain their data from public government information, revealed that they have noticed a huge spike in downloads since launching their apps earlier this month.
One of the apps that have surged in popularity in the country is Corona 100m, an app that shows the date that a coronavirus patient was confirmed to have been infected, along with the individual's nationality, gender, age, and location history. More importantly, the app also allows users to track their proximity to infected coronavirus individuals and sends them an alert when they come within 100 metres of a location previously visited by an infected patient.
"The installs are increasing about 20,000 every hour," said Bae Won-Seok, the developer of the app, which has been installed more than one million times since its February 11 launch. The app has been downloaded by so many people over the last few days that it even caused the app's server to crash, according to Bae.
Corona Map was the second most downloaded mobile app on Google's app marketplace this week. As the name suggests, the app maps the exact locations where each confirmed patient has visited using different colours.
Lee Jun-young, the developer of the app, said he made the app because he found the government data difficult to understand. Although health officials release locations that show where coronavirus patients have been, the official information isn't very visual so Lee decided to put that information on a map.
However, while these apps are free to download, developers of Corona 100m and Corona Map said they're putting in money from their own pockets to run the apps but are asking for donations from users. "When I think that this app can prevent the spread of coronavirus patients by advising people not to go to certain places ... I feel proud," said Lee, the Corona Map developer before adding that he hopes the government builds on his app to develop one of its own.