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NHS Covid App Does Not Work for Phones Set to Other Languages

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The NHS contact-tracing app does not work for users whose phones are set to unsupported languages.

The app is localised into 12 languages, including English, Welsh, Bengali, and Polish.

However, for hundreds of thousands of people in England and Wales with handsets set to languages such as Portuguese and Spanish, the app is unusable.

For speakers of unsupported languages, the app displays a completely blank screen - not even falling back to English.

The app’s official support page dismisses the issue, simply telling users to switch their devices to a supported language.

One affected user was Sebastiano Assino. “The advice of changing language on the users’ phones is not great in my opinion. When looking at the list of available translations you can see that out of the European languages there’s only Polish and Romanian.

“That means the phone won’t display the app properly for any other language used and the user would be forced to switch their phone to English in order to have a functioning app.”

There are a considerable number of users affected by the issue. ONS figures show that there are over 100,000 speakers of French, Portuguese, and Spanish within England and Wales.

Visitors to the UK will also be affected by the issue, as it would be unreasonable to expect them to change their devices to a supported language whilst in the country in order to take part in contact tracing.

Carl Uminski, the chief operating officer of Somo, a digital product agency said: “If this app was for any other business it would be seen as a failure. I think the way it has been put together seems disjointed and what we were expecting from it – notifying and letting people know real info on control of the virus – has been almost forgotten. The simplicity of what it actually does should make it more likely to work and to also be able to do so much more.

“We live in a very multicultural society with a market open for all and so there should be no question about it being available across a large number of languages without any problems. It’s such a basic app; it shouldn’t have this sticking point – and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see further problems come to light. If we had put this application together for a client, they would understandably be dissatisfied with the result.”

Harry Pererra
Harry Pererra

Harry turns on his experience in journalism and programming to write about the latest news in the world of tech and the environemtn. When he isn’t writing for usave he is working towards his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and prefers dogs to cats.

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