Independent review found Australia’s COVID-19 contact tracing app ‘ineffective’, ‘cumbersome’


An independent report has found that Australia’s COVID-19 contact tracing app COVIDSafe has not been helpful in the country’s response to the pandemic.

The report, written by consulting firm Abt Associates, was viewed and read by the Canberra Times via an access to information request. It covered the period March-November 2020 of implementation of the application.


Australia introduced the COVIDSafe app last year in April as a contact tracing tool. Jointly developed by the Department of Health and the Digital Transformation Agency, the mobile app has adopted the same Bluetooth technology that is used in Singapore’s TraceTogether contact tracing app. As of May of this year, there were over 7 million registered users of the app in the country.

The document says the application led to a “cumbersome and inefficient” process for government contact tracers to access information, such as manually entering data from a screen into a system or a spreadsheet. calculation. Some trackers told reviewers that the app adds two hours to the tracking process.

According to the Canberra Times, the report also found that the app was not useful in high-risk environments, such as crowded indoor venues and large outdoor events.

During the said six-month period, less than 2% of the total close contacts of COVID-19 positive patients in New South Wales were found, while no new close contacts were found in Victoria and in Queensland.

The review ultimately suggested that the government explore options to improve the contact tracing application while recognizing the performance barriers that limit its effectiveness and efficiency, including technical flaws, lack of location data and a “heavy” system which increased the workload of the contact tracers. for little reward.


There were concerns over whether taxpayer dollars were being well spent on the A $ 8 million COVIDSafe app. The federal government has admitted in its own 12-month review of the app that it had been “rarely” used given the “relatively” low number of COVID-19 cases in Australia, coupled with “the effectiveness of our contact tracing processes.”

Still, for the government, the app will remain as “an important addition to the suite of tools available to complement existing contact tracing processes in the future.”


In the United States, about seven in 10 Americans have been reluctant to download or use COVID-19 contact tracing apps, citing privacy and security concerns, according to a study carried out by security software provider Avira last year.

Another US study published in May this year found low approval among Americans for the use of digital data for COVID-19 initiatives, such as contact tracing.


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