Today the UK government asked the contact-tracing software developers to switch to the notification technology according to the global framework proposed by Apple and Google. This comes as quite a surprise as earlier this government has decided not to use the advice by tech giants for its coronavirus contact tracing app.
Some developed and developing countries in the world are working on making contact-tracings apps to help control the spread of COVID-19. Currently, 43 Covid-19 contact-tracing apps have been launched in 23 countries There are many questions raised on the usage of these smartphone software to alert users when someone near them becomes infected. While there is no proven evidence that such tools are even technically capable to do so.
Many scientists have also signed a statement warning that such apps can lead to unprecedented surveillance of society. Other than the security reasons, there are also questions on the storage and the ownership of its data.
According to the experts at Oxford University, at least 60 per cent of citizens need to download these apps for proper functionality. The number is not in line with smartphone users globally. According to Statista, there are 3.5 billion people globally using smartphone, making 45.04% of the World’s population eligible to download. This per cent varies according to countries but still is not enough to control the spread of the virus.
Another issue that has recently popped up about the contact-tracing apps is the way apps behave on iOS and Android phones. Apple phones have the tendency to close apps if they are not used for an hour. This is defeating the purpose of smartphones talking to each other to update about any suspected coronavirus person around us.
Governments have started to realise that these technical limitations are taking the purpose away from these software systems. A solution to this issue is seen in android phones that will even keep the iOS phones active.
After iPhone’s operating system shuts down the app’s functions an hour after last use, it ends up in “listen-only” mode. Two phones in that limited mode cannot carry out their contact-tracing function, hence, Android phones, which do not shut down unused apps to preserve battery, will be a key to ensuring the working of contact tracing as they wake up the nearby iPhones.
Some of the official apps that for contact-tracing include, NHSX in UK, COVIDSafe in Australia, Aarogya Setu in India, BeAware in Bahrain, CoronApp in Columbia, eRouška in Czech Republic and TraceTogether in Singapore among others.
There is a big question whether the purpose will be served by these apps, or will all the investment be a waste of taxpayers money.