There are five reasons why we should all be optimistic about Canada’s new Covid Alert app:
- An Oxford study indicates that Contact Tracing apps have the potential to significantly reduce Covid transmission (noting that half of transmission cases occurred before symptoms were present);
- Both, Korea and Taiwan have implemented highly successful Contact Tracing apps;
- The low level of virus exposure notifications by some European Contact Tracing apps can be explained by the fact that social distancing measures are still in effect and these apps are still in the early stages of adoption;
- The Bluetooth technology used to determine “close contact” might be new, but is continuously improving; and
- Apple and Google, which developed the Application Programming Interface (API) used by Covid Alert, prioritized privacy.
Critics of the new app are correct to point out that many essential workers and retired folks might not be able to afford a smartphone to run this app. Nonetheless, these problems can be resolved by implementing new laws requiring employers to provide smartphones to essential workers, just like they are required to provide them with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Furthermore, governments should strongly consider providing free smartphones to seniors and anyone who cannot afford them in their efforts to turn the tide against Covid.
Engineers, scientists, and those working with new technologies understand that no innovation is perfect from the get-go. In fact, several iterations may be required to have a successful Covid Alert program. It is not in our spirit to give up when the going gets tough. Otherwise, Canadians would not have invented the electric wheelchair, the pacemaker, or the telephone just to name a few of our innovations.
This blog post is a call to all engineers, programmers, scientists, technologists, and innovation enthusiasts in Ontario to download the Covid Alert app today, and to please help your co-workers, family and friends install it as well. The science says Contact Tracing apps have the potential to significantly reduce Covid transmission. Now it is our turn to use Covid Alert, help improve it, and do what we do best which is to protect the public.