Apple and Google have released the first version of their COVID-19 contact tracing app API (they’ve rebranded it as “exposure notification”) in a new developer release. The firms are looking to collect feedback from developers who will be using the API to create new contact tracing (“exposure notification”) apps.
In the U.S., it’s very likely a quixotic exercise, as nearly 3 in 5 Americans say they are either unable or unwilling to use the infection-alert system under development by Apple and Google. These findings strongly suggest that it will be difficult to persuade enough people to use the app to make it effective against the coronavirus pandemic, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.
The effort faces several major barriers, including that approximately 1 in 6 Americans do not have smartphones, which would be necessary for running any apps produced by the initiative. Rates of smartphone ownership are much lower among seniors, who are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of covid-19, with just over half of those aged 65 or older saying that they have a smartphone (53 percent). Rates are even lower for those 75 and older, according to the Post-U. Md. poll.
Among the 82 percent of Americans who do have smartphones, willingness to use an infection-tracing app is split evenly, with 50 percent saying they definitely or probably would use such an app and an equal percentage saying they probably or definitely would not.
Among Americans overall, 41 percent say they both have a smartphone and are willing to use an infection-tracking app, the poll finds. Oxford University researchers have suggested that 60 percent of a country’s population would need to use a coronavirus-tracking app like this to stop the viral spread. Reduced adoption could limit its effectiveness in slowing new infections and deaths.
Singapore’s TraceTogether app, which launched last month, has been downloaded by approximately a fifth of the population. In Australia, more than 2 million people have downloaded the government’s COVIDSafe app since its Sunday release — about 8 percent of the country’s 25 million people.
MacDailyNews Take: Shocker. Furthermore, that 41 percent of Americans who say they both have a smartphone and are willing to use an contact tracing app is a poll, not a real-world, result. People tell pollsters things that they end up not doing. That number will be much lower than 41%. As in: less than half. Even in Singapore, where citizens generally follow the government’s rules, only 20% of the population have Singapore’s contact tracing app installed. More about the myriad issues of Bluetooth COVID-19 contact tracing apps can be found in our previous Takes here and here.