COVID-19 contact tracing app #PurposePeoplePlace

The vast majority of Irish adults – 82% – are willing to download a contact tracing app to their smartphone to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research carried out by a team from Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, University of Limerick (UL) and NUI Galway. However, respondents also expressed several privacy concerns, including that the Government, tech firms or hackers might use the information gathered for other purposes after the pandemic.

In the survey, “A National Survey of attitudes to COVID-19 Digital Contact Tracing in the Republic of Ireland”, 98% of the more than 8,000 respondents stated that they understood the concept of contact tracing and 96% stated that informing the HSE of your close contacts is important if you develop COVID-19.

Lero’s Dr Jim Buckley said the response was very heartening considering that researchers from the University of Oxford estimated that, if 56% of people were to download an ideal contact tracing app in the UK, this would be enough to control the disease by itself.

It seems, Dr Buckley said, the primary driver for people’s willingness to download a public-health-backed, contact tracing app during the current crisis is a desire to help others and “for the greater good”.

However, he noted, “studies in other jurisdictions have suggested that the actual adoption rate typically lags behind the take-up rate suggested by surveys performed in advance of contact-tracing apps’ launches. Therefore, there is no room for complacency and eliminating the disease requires a high degree of participation from the public and evidence-based app development.”

This Science Foundation Ireland funded research also shows 51% of respondents indicated they “definitely will install” the app if it becomes available, 31% indicated they “probably will install” the app. Ten per cent reported they “may or may not install” the app.

People preferred the idea of a Bluetooth app, with just 31% stating that they would prefer an app that uses geolocation technology.

According to Dr Jim Buckley of Lero and UL, analysis of free-text responses in the survey also yielded interesting insights.

“Concerns regarding battery life and Bluetooth led some respondents to suggest that a means to automatically enabling Bluetooth when users leaves their home or workplace should be integrated into the app. Another suggestion involved setting times for the app to be active, which could be entered by the user in advance according to their work, travel or shopping schedule,” he said.

Lero @ NUI Galway

As organisations face increasing volatile changing global markets, the rapid development of software, and advances in technologies, dynamic practices and processes has become vital. Lero @ NUI Galway work at the cutting edge of software development and management, providing unique insights that impact the performance of organisations, while also setting the academic research agenda in the area.

The research group at NUI Galway is comprised of sixteen staff including academic, postdoctoral and Ph.D. researchers from diverse industry backgrounds and is part of a global network of industry domain experts and thought leaders.