In 2020, the federal government launched the COVID Alert app to alert Canadians to potential virus exposures before symptoms appear. After testing positive for COVID-19, only 25,552 people voluntarily entered their one-time key to notify others.
According to York University researchers, the majority of the population has not downloaded the app because of accessibility and inclusion issues, a lack of multilingual functionality, and privacy concerns.
According to the researchers, the greater the number of people who use the app, the greater the impact it has on the pandemic. After comparing the app to tracing apps from other countries, York University researchers made 23 recommendations on how to improve it.
The COVID Alert app in Canada is currently only available in English and French. Mandarin, Cantonese, and Punjabi are among Canada’s most widely spoken languages. Researchers determined that user uptake will not improve unless researchers understand Canadians’ concerns. According to Phillips, Canada should consider incentivizing people to use these apps by building in additional functionality such as a “symptom checker”.