I travel across a country-border for work. Therefore, I must be attentive to the different measures that the governments of country A and country B have in place to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. Some of the measures implemented by both governments are contact tracing and immunity certificates. Mostly, in a digital form, through deployment of apps.

As I choose to actively use the covid-19 tracking app, and the countries have deployed different products, I need to have two tracking apps. And I have a digital certificate. As you can imagine, different countries have different apps for storing/using the certificate. So, I also need two different apps for this.

Recently, I got an “exposure alert” on app A after being abroad for work. Without having to call anyone, I could have downloaded a “medical leave” to justify my need for quarantining at home. I found this option extremely useful and very well thought.

After this event, I could not stop wondering: how is it possible that I have been using the tracking app from my country of residence (app B) since it first came out in 2020 and never received a “exposure alert”? My best guess is that there are not enough people using this tracking app – as some studies from 2020 were already suggesting. Indeed, the number of downloads of the tracking-app B (as per in-app statistics) accounts for less than 20% of the country’s population.

What could explain that not enough people feel compelled to use the tracking-app? I am pretty sure there are plenty of reasons of a different nature, but let’s focus on the “3 principles of digital health”:

  1. Be useful for the users
  2. Be easy to implement and integrate with existing systems
  3. Positively impact society

While country A has a combined tracking/certificate app (app A). The country B has a distinct app for tracking and for storing the certificate, doubling the implementation efforts by the user. The consequence is that the usage numbers are very different, with the tracking app of the country B being too low to become useful for the users and positively impacting society.

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