Use of Mobile Phone Apps for Contact Tracing to Control the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Literature Review
22 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2020 Last revised: 10 Aug 2020
Date Written: July 1, 2020
Background: Contact tracing is a widely adopted surveillance system that is used to identify, evaluate, and handle people who have been exposed to novel infectious diseases. The mobile phone apps using a digital technological system, called “proximity tracking,” is used as a surveillance system to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
Objective: The aim of this review is to examine the use of mobile phone apps for contact tracing to control the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.
Method: A search of different electronic databases, such as PubMed, PubMed Central, Google Scholar, and Google, was carried out using search items ‘mobile app,’ ‘tracing’, and ‘COVID-19’. The search was conducted between 18 to 31 May 2020.
Findings: The search revealed that a total of 15 countries in the world developed and actively using 17 mobile apps for contact tracing to control the COVID-19 pandemic during the selected time frame. China and Malaysia were only using two apps. Out of 17 apps, three were protected by the country’s data protection laws. The results indicate that the mobile apps were used to monitor self-isolated individuals, identify individuals not wearing masks, whether they had close contact with an infected person, provides exact time and place of the encounter, and possible risk of infection.
Conclusion: Contact tracing is found to be an essential public health approach to fight the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and other novel infectious diseases. However, caution is warranted to generalize the usability of apps, especially in the LMICs, and to address the concerns regarding data anonymizing, data privacy and usage, and data rights.
Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, mobile phone apps, contact tracing, prevention, data privacy
JEL Classification: I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation