Nearly 40% of Icelanders are using a covid app—and it hasn’t helped much

Rakning C-19, which launched in early April, was hailed as a method to “make the tracing of transmissions simpler” on the time. It tracks customers’ GPS information to compile a file of the place they’ve been, permitting investigators—with permission—to take a look at whether or not these with a constructive prognosis are probably spreading the illness. 

And it gained traction rapidly: according to MIT Technology Review’s Covid Tracing Tracker, it has the biggest penetration price of all contact trackers on the earth, having been downloaded by 38% of Iceland’s inhabitants of 364,000. 

However regardless of this early deployment and widespread use, one senior determine within the nation’s covid-19 response says the true impression of Rakning C-19 has been small, in contrast with guide tracing strategies like telephone calls.

“The expertise is kind of … I wouldn’t say ineffective,” says Gestur Pálmason, a detective inspector with the Icelandic Police Service who’s overseeing contact tracing efforts. “Nevertheless it’s the mixing of the 2 that offers you outcomes. I might say it [Rakning] has confirmed helpful in just a few circumstances, nevertheless it wasn’t a sport changer for us.”

Technological limits

Pálmason joined the covid tracing group 10 days after the primary registered incident, when the nation’s case numbers had been within the 60s. He says there have been situations the place the information was helpful, however that the impression of automated tracing has been exaggerated by individuals keen to seek out technological options to the pandemic.

“It is comprehensible, as a result of an app is stuff which you could purchase,” he says. “However I make it tremendous clear to everybody that guide tracing is not any much less necessary.”

That perspective must be cautionary for different international locations at present engaged on their very own automated contact tracing providers. Many different governments are nonetheless within the early stages with their own standalone apps, or are constructing providers based mostly on the as-yet-unreleased technology being developed by Apple and Google.

Many are hopeful that the huge attain of those Silicon Valley giants will overcome a number of the social and technical hurdles faced by tracing apps. But when a small, socially- cohesive, and geographically remoted nation like Iceland can solely obtain 38% penetration, that would counsel that efforts in different international locations will battle to get the extent of adoption required. 

Different elements

Nonetheless, Iceland has managed to flatten its coronavirus curve and preserve its outbreaks largely beneath management. At this time it has had simply over 1,800 confirmed circumstances and 10 deaths. Case numbers have remained roughly static for a number of weeks, and the final confirmed covid-19 demise was on April 19.

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