€300,000 a month French tracing app fails in first four weeks

€300,000 a month French tracing app fails in first four weeks
Credit: Belga

Four weeks after its launch, France’s “StopCovid” coronavirus tracing application has only reported 14 risk cases, the government announced Tuesday.

The application’s performance has reignited the debate on the usefulness of these tools in the fight against the pandemic.

Just 2% of the French population has installed StopCovid on its mobile phone. The app allows users who find themselves infected to anonymously warn other users they have recently crossed paths with.

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Only 68 people have used the application to warn the people they have crossed paths with of their infection, according to French Secretary of State for the Digital Economy, Cédric O. A mere 14 users of the application received an alert warning them that they had been in contact with one of these infected people.

These figures do not call into question the usefulness of the application, according to Cédric O, and should be linked in particular to the decrease in the prevalence of the virus, he said.

The number of StopCovid users is estimated by the authorities at around 1.5 million people throughout France. That number remains low compared to, for example, Germany, where the equivalent application has been downloaded 10 million times.

While the app was developed for free, it reportedly costs €200,000 to €300,000 a month to keep running.

The implementation of tracing applications has been considered an essential step in deconfinement but has proved to be very complex, due to technological challenges as well as privacy issues.

In Great Britain, the government abandoned its patient tracking application project in favour of another model. Last week, Norway suspended its own solution, Smittestop, which had been criticised for being too intrusive.

Outside Europe, the TraceTogether’ application launched in March in Singapore was met with mixed success and did not prevent the government from taking containment measures.

In Belgium, while Walloon Health Minister Christie Morreale had announced that “Wallonia is still waiting for a solid legal framework” for a contact tracing app, it was announced that the Flemish government had given the go-ahead for an app that should be developed by September. Belgium’s contact tracing is currently being done through a call centre.

The Brussels Times

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