Singapore and Switzerland were the first countries that released digital apps against the Covid-19 pandemic. Also Ireland and Germany managed to launch apps that are successfully used by a large proportion of the population.
The United States have also followed the steps of the above countries, making their own effort to launch a digital app against COVID- 19 pandemic. But this effort delayed considerably compared to other countries.
Earlier this month Virginia was the first US State to launch an app using the Apple- Google system. The app is called Covidwise and its role is to catch Covid -19 cases faster. Of course, to achieve this, must first of all to be overcomed the long delays in getting the test results. Users who download the app in their smartphones exchange Bluetooth signals to keep an anonymous list of close encounters. The app then allows people who are infected with the virus to notify those contacts without anyone revealing their identity.
It is said that three more states are going to launch similar apps. It seems that there is no place for a nationwide app in the United States given the lack of a coordinated federal response. This shows that the United States remains far behind compared to other countries where such apps are used at a great extent.
At the same time Norway and the United Kingdom, although started discussing the possibility of launching a digital app concerning Covid-19, gradually abandoned the effort and the project didn’t have the expected expectations.
People in Ireland have access to a tracing app concerning Covid-19. This app, also works across the border. For example if a user in Belfast travels to Dublin and is in close contact with a user of the Irish app who has been found positive for the virus, he or she will receive an alert even if he or she has returned home. It is worth mentioning that 37% of the population in Ireland downloaded the app in its first week.
At the same time in Germany more than 20% of the population downloaded the app. In Germany this app seems to be a really success as other governments use it as an example in order to built their own app concerning Covid-19.
Almost two million people decided to download the app StopCovid in France at the early summer, when it was launched. A very small number compared to other countries, such as Germany. The platform is informed with the people infected and alerts the rest of the population.
The Italian government chose the app Immuni to alert individuals about the risk of possible contagion. The app was officially launched on 1st June. In the first month the app has been downloaded by four million people.
Spain’s Secretary of Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence Carme Artigas confirmed on early of August that a mobile phone application aimed to help trace possible coronavirus infections will be launched in the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, the first of Spain’s 17 autonoous communities to launch such an app. During the test period of the application on June and July, 61% of people informed of a possible infection subsequently sent warnings to alert people who they had spent time with.
What is it important to have in mind for these digital apps?
Digital contact tracing apps can be effective even though they aren’t adopted by the majority of the population. They can also work well with lower adoption rates. Even if just one infection prevented could potentially save a life.
Tracing apps can be well combined with tools like testing, distancing and masks in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic but they cannot solve the problem themselves. In other words people have to manage the expectations they have from these apps.
People must get used to trust these apps. So, all of the information gathered by the apps must stay on people phones rather than being sent to central servers.
It is important to fine tune the app’s parameters to the point so they measure the exposure as accurate as possible in order problems to be avoided.
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