IT experts share thoughts on contact tracing app

By Ben Carey on 9 June, 2020

A survey carried out by Swindon’s BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, has highlighted the key factors faced by the Coronavirus contact tracing app, as voted for by IT professionals.

Proving that it works; addressing issues around trust, privacy and security; and ensuring ease of use are the top five measures that the government needs to tackle in order to win public support for the proposed app.

The survey, completed by over 1,700 respondents, asked people to identify the single most important action the government could take in order to achieve widespread voluntary downloads.

The results revealed that the top five things that IT professionals think the government should do to ensure the uptake of the app are:

  • Prove it works 21%
  • Get the trust from members of the public first 13%
  • Allay the privacy concerns 12%
  • Allay the security concerns 10%
  • Make it easy to download 7%

Other answers given included:

  • Get the model right 7%
  • Communication campaign 7%
  • Delete all data when pandemic is over 4%
  • Incentivise public 4%
  • Increase capacity for testing 3%
  • Make it mandatory / compulsory 2%
  • Improve battery consumption 1%
  • Endorsement from professional body 1%

The survey revealed that less than a quarter of IT professionals think the planned NHSX contact tracing app will be effective in containing COVID-19. Just 24 per cent believe the app will contribute to curbing the virus, with 32 per cent feeling it will make no contribution and 45 per cent undecided.

42 per cent of IT experts said they would be downloading the app for themselves, with 36 per cent saying they would not install it and 21 per cent undecided.

Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, Director of Policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, said, “BCS is clear that if done ethically and competently a tracing app can make a huge contribution to stopping the spread of COVID-19; but a majority of our members don’t believe the current model will work and are worried about the reliance on a centralised database.

“The government will need to work hard to convince people that ‘ethical by design, correct by design, and privacy by default’ values are baked into the app to get the download numbers it is aiming for.”

You can view the full survey results here.