By Daniel Reech
The COVID Alert app hasn’t caught on in Saskatchewan. According to an article by CBC, only 197 people logged their positive diagnoses into the app between its launch on Sept. 18, 2020, up until Nov. 19, 2020. A period in which there were over 2000 active cases in the province.
For app user, Anand Patel, a 23-year-old psychology major, these numbers aren’t surprising. “Based on personal experience, I’m the only one I know that uses this app.” Patel said.
Patel speculates that one reason the app hasn’t caught on might be due to the fact that some people have concerns of being tracked or identified by it.
Health Canada insists that the app has absolutely no way of doing such things, but nonetheless it’s a possibility that this fear may dissuade potential users from downloading it. Another possible explanation for its unpopularity may be its usage of data and Bluetooth technology on mobile devices.
The COVID Alert app uses low-energy Bluetooth ostensibly to not drain too much of a phone’s battery however, users have had varying results on their mobile devices.
The application currently has a three point six stars out of five on the Google Play Store. Some Android users have mentioned that location services need to be turned on in order for the app to work, which may reinforce concerns users and potential users have about privacy.
One user wrote a review saying “I fully support the reason for this app. However, what’s the point if it won’t even do its job? I was standing RIGHT NEXT to someone who was positive for covid and my phone gave me absolutely NO INDICATION that I had been exposed. So what’s the use of this app??????”
Another user wrote: “Lightweight, does not slow my phone down, minimal data collected. Far better to have this in your pocket than not, the more citizens use it, the better it gets.”
Patel speculates that another possible reason for the app’s lack of success may be the fact that for many people, logging their results into application may be at the bottom of their priority list if they were to test positive for COVID-19.
Patel posits that even if there were a sufficient amount of people using the app “you can’t assume that this is the first responsibility that people are going to take.” Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 are likely to follow other protocols and measures after being diagnosed such as self isolating or informing their families.
“Let’s say for example I tested positive for COVID-19, I would have to take action to enter a key into this app which would then notify people that I was in range with, which is another step to the process. When somebody gets diagnosed with COVID-19 their first reaction is not to go on this app right, their first reaction is to kind of process what had happened. And especially with COVID-19 being so prominent.” Patel said.