HSE's Covid-19 tracing app passes 1m downloads

Ireland’s Covid-19 tracker smartphone application Ireland’s Covid-19 tracker smartphone application is closing in on one million downloads in less than 48 hours, although the latest figures from the HSE appear to show the overall total in decline.
HSE's Covid-19 tracing app passes 1m downloads
The more people who download the app the more efficiently it can operate as a contact tracking platform, assuming its permissions are fully enabled by all those involved. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie
Ireland’s Covid-19 tracker smartphone application
Ireland’s Covid-19 tracker smartphone application

Ireland’s Covid-19 tracker smartphone application has surpassed one million downloads in less than 48 hours, the HSE have announced.

It came after figures this afternoon appeared to show the overall total in decline.

The app, which aims to complement the existing manual contact tracing system by automatically tracking contacts between users, had seen an astonishing early adoption rate, one which set records both for an Irish app and for Covid tracker apps internationally.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid had suggested that one million downloads would be achieved by 11am on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after the app’s official launch. However, that has not quite come to pass.

As at 4.40pm on Wednesday the overall figure stood at 959,736, the HSE said, but just after 10pm, they confirmed it had passed the one million mark.

However, the app itself, in its contact tracing section, displays a graph of total downloads, which had begun to dip for the first time from early on Wednesday morning.

Asked what was causing the dip, the HSE said it had resulted due to the graph itself being “based on a rolling average”. A spokesperson said the dip is expected to “resolve itself in the next couple of days”.

The HSE could not confirm the split in operating systems which had downloaded the app, though they said that information will become available in the coming days. Likewise, the numbers of people using the app’s symptom tracking option could not as yet been confirmed.

According to the app there had been 350,000 such check-ins as of 7pm on Wednesday evening, representing 36% of all users.

With such a vigorous early adoption rate, the app has achieved almost half of its target penetration in just two days, meaning it may attend viability far ahead of schedule.

Mr Reid had said that the target for viability of the app is roughly 60% of the 3.7m-strong adult smartphone market in Ireland, which equates to about 2.2m downloads.

The more people who download the app the more efficiently it can operate as a contact tracking platform, assuming its permissions are fully enabled by all those involved. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie
The more people who download the app the more efficiently it can operate as a contact tracking platform, assuming its permissions are fully enabled by all those involved. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

The more people who download the app the more efficiently it can operate as a contact tracking platform, assuming its permissions are fully enabled by all those involved.

Numerous doubts have been cast over the efficacy of the app’s technology, which is based on the Bluetooth protocol, which was not designed with such contact tracking in mind. Fran Thompson, the HSE’s acting chief information officer, while allowing for the possibility of false positives said that the app could be expected to correctly track nine people out of a group of 11 in close proximity to each other.

The tracker has likewise prompted data protection concerns from privacy activists after it emerged it cannot function on Android devices, which represent some 39% of all devices active in Ireland, unless location GPS settings are enabled.

The HSE itself has resolved to discontinue the app within 90 days should it come to the conclusion that it is ineffective. Such a conclusion will not be arrived at until the tracker has been active for at least six months however.

- This story was updated at 10.19pm

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