Where are all the Contact Tracing Apps?
Contact tracing apps were supposed to help the world minimize the spread of COVID-19, and although the idea had a lot of promise, in reality, it fell short of expectations. In this episode, we dive deep into the role of technology and COVID-19, why contact tracing apps haven’t lived up to the hype, and what it would take to introduce something that… you know... works?
Contact Tracing 101
- The premise is simple: Your phone notifies you when someone near you has had contact with someone who had COVID-19, or notifies you if you’ve been around someone who had COVID-19.
- Experts are referring to the apps/technology as exposure notification apps to make a point that it is benefiting the users, not the trackers.
The problem: widespread adoption
- Google and Apple formed a rare, collaborative partnership to create “Exposure Notifications” API based on Low Energy Bluetooth, keeping all data exchanged anonymous and limited to only what’s necessary.
- Early versions of apps in states like Rhode Island, Utah, North Dakota, and South Dakota actually DID use GPS tracking, which sparked immediate privacy concerns, and the apps were pulled back.
- An Oxford study concluded that 60% of a country’s population would need to use contact tracing technology in order for it to be effective. But many experts disagree and believe that any adoption could help mitigate risk.
- It comes down to the user experience, and right now, “it just works” isn’t it. Getting someone to download it is the first step. Getting someone to use it is the second step. And anyone that’s deployed an application knows just how hard it is to do both of those things.
Getting more adoption:
- What other options or experiences can we use to get more people to engage with contact tracing applications?
- We have to prove that it works in order for adoption to happen. Right now, there is no social proof that contact tracing is working and minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
- What if we paid Americans $1,000 to download a contact tracing app?