A mixed success: The COVID Alert app

The COVID Alert app is now available to people living in Saskatchewan. It notifies its users about potential exposure risk. Photo by Daniel Reech

The COVID Alert app was launched in Saskatchewan on Sept. 18 and has since provided a large sense of relief to some people in Regina and Saskatoon. 

  The app notifies its users when they are in proximity to one another via Bluetooth technology. It also allows users who test positively to anonymously disclose their infection status.  It has been established to help slow the spread of COVID-19 alongside other recommended measures (physical distancing, wearing a mask). 

For University of Regina, Faculty of Journalism student Jennifer Francis, the app has been an incredibly useful tool.  

 “It gives me a sense of security knowing that if someone around me were to get a positive result, that I would get notified.” said Francis. “It makes me feel a lot safer.”

According to Francis, the app is very easy to use.

 “You download the app, it asks you what province you’re from and I don’t even think you have to give it permission to use anything, you don’t have to say your name or sign up for anything, it’s just on your phone and it works through Bluetooth.”   

  This is corroborated by the government issued press release which states that “ The COVID Alert app does not collect personal information or health data, and does not know or track the location, name, address or contacts of any user.” (https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2020/september/18/covid-app)

Although Francis has found the app useful, she noted that it’s effectiveness may be limited by just how few people are actually using it. “ My only concern with it[the app] is that I don’t think a lot of people are using it. So, I think it’s really important for people to use the app if your phone can handle it.”  

Anand Patel is a 22-year old psychology major at the University of Saskatchewan. He shares similar thoughts on the tool. 

 “My experience with the app, I think it’s a very good idea,” said Patel. 

“However, maybe this is a product of social distancing measures actually working or if it’s just the fact that not enough people are using this app, is the fact that I’ve never received a notification or even a warning that I may have been in contact with someone with COVID.”  He continues to voice his concerns that not a lot of Canadians have been taking the pandemic very seriously and that he does not know many people who have downloaded the app.

Aside from that though, in regards to the apps performance and functionality, he has no complaints.

 “I think the app itself is really well done because it takes advantage of your phone’s background processes so like, when you’re in the app there’s actually not much functionality itself other than the main screen which tells you whether or not you’ve been in contact with people with COVID.”

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