Technology

Manitoba government shows little interest in COVID Alert app

Gary Ng for iPhone in Canada:

Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen cast doubt on COVID Alert, saying how he has heard up to 60% of the Canadian population would need to download the app for it to be useful, noting it would be “challenging” to achieve that goal.

So we just won’t bother? If even a handful of lives are saved, isn’t that useful? It’s challenging so just won’t do it? What an absurd reason not to do something. I’d wager people would be pretty willing to use the app if they knew about it, and if Manitoba even supported it to begin with, especially with the recent uptick in cases.

To that point, from the same article Friesen likely heard about the 60%:

A national poll commissioned by myself and senators Rosemary Moodie and Colin Deacon this spring found considerable support among the public for using such an app. Of the respondents, 82 per cent said they wanted to be anonymously notified via a smartphone if they were exposed to the virus, and 92 per cent said they were willing to share the results of a positive test so others could be notified.

The province has obviously spent a bunch of money putting together a marketing plan to reopen Manitoba. Meanwhile, after a disastrous third and fourth phase of reopening, cases are on the rise. Instead, why not put together a campaign encouraging adoption of the app? Based on the data, I think it’s safe to assume that people would use the app if it were even functional here. Don’t worry though, they’re looking into it. Whatever that means.

“Certainly, there’s privacy discussions. From my opinion of it, I don’t think it should be a big issue but certainly it’s an issue to some to look at it,” said [Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent] Roussin.

The app is open source and has been dug into by privacy commissioners at both the provincial and federal level. That work has been done already.

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. Why in the world would you not use any and every available tool to reduce the spread of COVID? Searching for some magic “big answer” will only leave more people sick or worse.