Global contact tracing app downloads lag behind effective levels

Over the past three months, about 50 national governments have released contact tracing apps to help warn their citizens if they’ve been exposed to someone infected with Covid-19. Data from mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower suggests that, so far, most apps have not seen the download rates they need to effectively curtail the spread of coronavirus.

In order for a contact tracing app to work, it needs widespread adoption. The higher the download rate, the better the chance that any two strangers who come in contact with each other both have the app, so that their phones can exchange a signal and notify them if the other person becomes sick.

Researchers haven’t pinpointed a magic number that will make the system work. While many media reports cite a 60% threshold, the authors of the study that statistic is drawn from say it has been misunderstood: They clarified in an email that tracing apps can reduce the spread of disease even if the adoption rate is as low as 15% of the population.

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