How Will the Population Accept COVID-19 Tracing Apps?


Coronavirus tracing applications for the detection of infection chains are currently being developed and made available across the world. 

Coronavirus tracing applications for the detection of infection chains are currently being developed and made available across the world. Such contact-tracing apps are a central component of national strategies for relaxing restrictions. However, for these apps to be successful, they must be widely accepted and actively used by a large proportion of the population. An international research team led by the University of Göttingen has investigated how decision-makers can use app designs to achieve mass acceptance. The results of the study have been published in the European Journal of Information Systems.

The study focuses on three particular aspects that also play a prominent role in public debate. How should privacy be respected? What inconveniences are acceptable? And who benefits from using the app? In order to find answers to these questions, the research team designed various coronavirus tracing apps. The acceptance of the various app designs was then examined in an experimental study. The results show that these aspects are weighted differently within the population. For example, while privacy is important for people who are critics of such an application as well as for those who are undecided about it, convenience, which is optimized for example through low battery consumption or by being user-friendly, seems to be particularly important for those who are undecided.

"The key challenge in developing an application for contact-tracing, compared to the other apps we use every day, resides less in the implementation of the core technical functionalities," explains Dr Simon Trang, Assistant Professor for Information Security and Compliance at the University of Göttingen and first author of the study, "the main concern must rather be to present an app that is accepted by the broad, heterogeneous mass of the population. If this proves unsuccessful, the entire project will fail. Mass acceptance thus becomes the main design requirement for decision-makers in this new class of mobile apps”. Co-author Dr Manuel Trenz, Professor for Interorganizational Information Systems at the University of Göttingen, adds: "The decision makers therefore have to ask themselves which specific part of the population still needs to be convinced in order to achieve mass acceptance and make the app a success. And then one should focus on those aspects that we have identified as particularly important for these groups."

Read more at University of Göttingen

Image: A mobile phone, on its screen a Covid-19 tracing app opened. (Credit: Markus Winkler)