A Tale of Two Contact-Tracing Apps – Comparing Australia’s COVIDSafe and New Zealand’s NZ COVID Tracer
Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance, Forthcoming
19 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2020 Last revised: 11 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 11, 2021
The Australian and New Zealand governments have recently released smartphone-based apps to complement contact tracing in the event that they face a resurgence of COVID-19 infections. The apps form part of both countries' policies to support a return to social and economic engagement following extended lockdowns. Using process mapping and analysis, we evaluate the potential of the two apps to improve the performance of existing contact tracing systems across a range of efficiency and effectiveness criteria. We find that the Bluetooth-based Australian app appears likely to assist that country's contact tracing system to perform performing more efficiently and effectively in the event of a resurgence of the virus, and should increase confidence in re-engagement. The New Zealand QR code-based app, however, is not well-aligned with these objectives. Its interaction with a range of other regulations and obligations, combined with the high operational costs it imposes on its users, is likely to militate against its use. Its focus on business locations rather than contact between individuals risks information overload for contact tracers if a resurgence should arise, while it fails to capture information from personal interactions between strangers taking place in locations where QR codes cannot be acquired or displayed, but which are likely to be high-risk in the event of a resurgence. The latter may significantly constrain the development of individual confidence to re-engage. Our analysis suggests that in the international context, Bluetooth-based apps based on interactions between individuals likely better support these population-based objectives than QR code-based location-specific apps.
Note: Funding: We received no funding from any organisation for this research
Declaration of Interest: We have no conflicts of interest to declare in regard to this research.
This is an author-created, un-copyedited version of an article accepted for publication in Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance.
Keywords: COVID-19, contact tracing, health informatics, NZ COVID Tracer, COVIDSafe
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