Can a ‘simple app’ with data-privacy controls become a significant measure to manage the pandemic?


According to the Pepp-PT organization more than 40 countries are considering implementing a proximity app based on their concept. Both Italy and Germany are considering as significant measures to address the process of exiting the lock-down. The initial models by the scientists and the user feedback would suggest that it may be a rather feasible alternative.

Researchers at Oxford University have recently published in Science that quantifying interactions through simple digital tracing apps instead of classic contact tracing (which is slow and time consuming, thus reducing its effectivity), can have a potential significative impact in reducing the spread of the disease. Their model shows that around half of the transmissions of COVID-19 happen before showing any symptoms, and demonstrate that if half of the population uses a GEO-tracking app and monitors social interactions, it can have an impact on reducing the spread and minimize the number of people in isolation, decrease ICU admissions and ultimately save lives.

Simplified Policy Figure

Their model responds to a unique situation in which a high proportion of the population owns a functional smartphone. This makes this type of technology very attractive to have an impact in all groups of different ages and socioeconomic status. Their study also demonstrates that around 80% of that population would install and use the GEO-tracking application.

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It is important to mention and discuss that the use of such technologies comes together with a large set of issues regarding ethical considerations, formal regulations and policies that must be placed in the equation and not be forgotten. For this reason, the active participation of governments and international agencies regarding these important issues is necessary.