COVID Alert, which debuted last year to help keep Canadians safe by alerting them to possible virus exposures before showing symptoms, is not having a significant impact on slowing the spread of COVID-19, note the researchers.
“The elderly population is a perfect example in that they’re one of the sub-populations who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, but they’re also one of the populations that feels these apps are inaccessible to them,” said Jennie Phillips, Director of York University’s Digital Global Health and Humanitarianism Lab Researchers.
In order for the app to work, Canadians need to use it, noted Philips. She continued that the more people who use the app will determine how much of an effect it is having on the pandemic.
Canada’s COVID Alert app is currently only available only in English and French, creating a language barrier for many Canadians, including those who might be disproportionately affected by the virus.
Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi are among the most spoken languages in Canada, however, those languages are not offered on the app.
Researchers determined that without understanding the concerns of Canadians, finding ways to mitigate the privacy risks, and amplify the benefits of the COVID Alert app, user uptake will not be improved.
As of April 8, Health Canada said the app had been downloaded 6,455,311 times, while only 25,552 people have voluntarily input their one-time key to notify others around them after testing positive for COVID-19.