Montreal — The federal government has spent $ 20 million on a smartphone application designed to warn users that they may be infected with COVID-19. The results did not meet expectations, according to new data obtained by the Canadian press.
Introduced in several states at the end of last year, Ottawa’s COVID Alert app uses Bluetooth to detect distance to other users who have installed the app on their mobile devices and work closely with those who test positive. Notify the user when contacted. COVID-19 (new coronavirus infection.
The data show that about 6.6 million people downloaded the app, which is about one in five Canadians. There are more than 30 million mobile phone users nationwide. According to Dr. Esli Osmanlliu of McGill University Health Center, the number of Canadians using this app is relatively small, which is a disappointing result.
“Looking back, we have to admit that we didn’t live up to expectations at all, on the contrary,” said Othmanriu, an expert on digital healthcare initiatives, in a recent interview.
“If you do, it wasn’t a” game changer. ” “
According to a document reviewed by Canadian Press, most of the app’s budget, $ 15.9 million, was spent on promotion and advertising. An additional $ 3.5 million was invested in app development and maintenance.
Despite the fact that the app was released in September 2020, the government is only editing data since February. Between February 25th and May 31st, approximately 70,000 contact notifications were issued through the application. However, it is unclear if the data contains multiple notifications for a person, such as a healthcare professional who is regularly exposed to COVID-19.
The data also show that Ottawa had distributed 34,000 “one-time keys” by July 1. This is the code given to people diagnosed with COVID-19 and is used to see the test results in the app. You may be at risk.
Osmanlliu said low participation rates hindered the effectiveness of the app, both in terms of downloads and the number of people who self-reported a positive COVID-19 test. The data clearly show that COVID Alert does not play a major role in slowing down the virus, he said.
“Not only are we not sure if the app will work, but the number of one-time key deliveries is very low compared to the total number of people who had COVID-19,” Osmanlliu said. “As for alerts, there is a break between the number of downloaders and the number of alerts.”
However, Ottawa has never mentioned COVID Alert as an essential resource. Health Canada reiterated in a response to The Canadian Press and other official statements that the app was “only one of many tools available to Canadians to slow the spread of COVID-19.” Stated.
According to Osmanlliu, the app could be more useful in smaller, more well-defined situations. For example, he said the application could be used among long-term care facilities, schools, or essential workers.
Pierre Saint Arnaud