Nordics run information sharing on digital vaccination passports

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Nordic governments are sharing data in a collaboration linked to the development and launch of Covid-19 digital vaccination passports (DVPs).

This is part of a broader cross-border cooperation that aims to mitigate the societal impact of coronavirus through joint efforts to accelerate the reopening of hard-hit Nordic economies.

The pan-Nordic digital passport initiative aims to create digital IDs that can help to restore public confidence.

Nordic data-sharing arrangements are expected to lead to a mutual cross-border recognition of each state’s DVP for both travel and commercial purposes. Nordic DVP apps will be designed to be compatible with international certificates currently being considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU).

At a local level, Nordic countries are looking at solutions that can integrate digital vaccine passports – called certificates in some jurisdictions – into existing national Covid-19 apps or separate dedicated travel apps. The flexibility in the solutions being developed means that the DVPs will serve as vaccine ID certificates, enabling free access to public spaces and venues such as cafes, restaurants, cinemas, sports and music events.

Nordic countries are on course to roll out DVPs in May and June 2021, awaited with some cautious anticipation by the region’s struggling travel, tourism and hospitality sectors.  

Denmark expects to be in a position to launch a DVP in May. Dansk Industri, the country’s biggest industry confederation for business and employers, was tasked to lead the DVP roll-out and is primed to launch the so-called Corona Pass DVP by the end of May.

“Having a digital vaccination passport is fundamental to returning society to a more normal place where people can to go concerts, eat out, visit the cinema and attend music festivals and sports events,” said Lars Sandahl Sørensen, CEO of Dansk Industri. “Speed is crucial. We must have a real reopening of Denmark and the world. It is imperative that we use the tools that can help with this reopening.”

The shared Nordic goal is to create a DVP solution that fulfils national needs but also reduces safety risks connected to foreign travel, particularly to countries that require a negative Covid test to enter. All Nordic countries except Norway are working to launch DVP apps with primary functions that enable them to be used at ticket control terminals or to navigate smoothly through Covid health check points and passport security stations at airports.

The Dansk Industri-managed Corona Pass project is part-funded by the Danish Agency for Digitisation (Digitaliseringsstyrelsen) and the Danish Health Data Authority (Danske Sundhedsdata), the latter being the state agency responsible for harnessing big data to improve patient care.

In February, these three Danish DVP partner organisations contracted Copenhagen-based business-critical IT solutions firm Netcompany to develop a secure, user-friendly Corona Pass app that can be downloaded to Android smartphones and Tablet devices.

“The Corona Pass will accelerate a return to a more normal everyday life,” said André Rogaczewski, CEO of Netcompany. “It will allow people to cross borders more easily and help reopen society based on testing, vaccination and immunity. The app we are developing must also match all requirements set down by the EU. The digital passport will be a valuable tool in fighting the impact of Covid-19.”

Finland is also targeting a May launch of its Digital Vaccination Certificate (DVC) app after its government invested an initial €3.5m in the project. The DVC is regarded as a critical tool in plans to devise a roadmap to safely reopen Finnish society once the pandemic starts to lose its grip. 

New legislation is being introduced that will require mandatory testing for the virus at Finland’s borders.

Meanwhile, Sweden is moving ahead with the planned roll-out of its DVP in June. Modelled on Denmark’s Corona Pass, the Swedish DVP is expected to dramatically improve Nordic cross-border and international travel, especially between southern areas of Sweden and Denmark, which host many of the Nordic region’s largest industrial companies and financial services providers. 

“Technology and digital tools can make a significant difference to help Nordic countries reopen at the safest and earliest moment,” said Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s minister for digital development. “Digital vaccine certificates will make it quick and easy to prove a completed vaccination.”

But by contrast with its Nordic neighbours, Norway has not yet made any concrete decision to introduce a DVP. The government continues to assess the technical and  information requirements that may be needed for a vaccination passport.

Norway’s Health Directorate (Helsedirektoratet) issued a request for information regarding a DVP in mid-March. The Health Directorate is continuing to track DVP category developments and advisory notifications from the EU and the WHO to help form its Covid defence strategies and public health policies.

The Norwegian government is coming under increasing pressure to green-light the launch of a DVP modelled on those being developed in Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland.

ICT Norway, the group representing the country’s ICT industry, wants the government to follow the example of other Nordic countries and back the launch of a DVP.

“Authorities in Norway must find a quick digital coronavirus vaccine passport solution,” said Fredrik Syversen, ICT Norway’s director of strategy and business development. “If we look to our Nordic neighbours Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Denmark, all of them are in the process of developing a passport. We need to do the same.”

At present, anyone entering Norway must undergo a mandatory digital registration process. The digital travel register, which replaced a temporary paper-based system in January 2021, forms a core part of the government’s scaled-up response to control imported Covid infections, especially new mutated virus variants.

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