Numbers using Covid app correctly not yet available, says HSE

Numbers using Covid app correctly not yet available, says HSE

The HSE is as yet unable to measure how many people are using its Covid tracker smartphone application correctly, despite a large takeup in usage in its first week.

Devices sporting the app must engage their bluetooth emitter in order to successfully operate the tracker’s exposure notification system, the template for which is based on a model developed by Google and Apple in tandem.

Phones using Google’s Android operating system must also have their GPS location data switched on in order to allow their bluetooth beacons to record ‘handshakes’ with other devices in close proximity. Should any of these services be disconnected the app’s contact tracing service cannot function as intended.

The HSE said that the app’s development team “are working to make this data available” to the health authorities.

A spokesperson said the executive would hope to have access to metrics regarding how many people are using the app correctly, amongst others, by early next week.

The HSE has committed, within its own data protection impact assessment (DPIA) for the app, to wind it down within 90 days if its monitoring committee deems it to be ineffective in its goal of curbing the spread of Covid-19 across the country.

Thus far 1.2 million people have installed the app, although that displays a marked slowdown over the past five days after a million users downloaded the software within 48 hours of its soft launch last Monday evening.

On Sunday afternoon the HSE revealed that the app had received its first confirmation of positive tests for the coronavirus among users.

It said that the manual contact tracing team had subsequently spoken to close contacts of those confirmed cases.

It’s believed that 2.2 million downloads would satisfy the HSE’s own target of 60% downloads among its target demographic - that is, people over the age of 16 with smart devices constructed within the past four years, a range of 3.7 million people within Ireland.

The app has four main scopes of function: contact tracing, information provision, symptom tracking, and the submission of metrics to the HSE. It is the last of these which will provide the detail as to how effectively the application is being adopted.

Examples of those metrics include number of downloads; number of people opening the app at least once daily; app deletions and abandonment; size of the contact-tracing network; number of positive diagnoses; length of time between exposure notification and positive diagnosis; and the extent to which people are making use of the symptom tracker.

As contact tracing apps became de rigeur across the globe from late March concerns over the possible impact on privacy rights rose in tandem.

The HSE’s application, which cost €850,000 to complete over the course of three months, works by exchanging anonymous contact information over bluetooth between devices in close 

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