Independent COVIDSafe app evaluation finds it ineffective and inefficient

The Australian government’s $8 million COVIDSafe app did not prove useful for contact tracing in the first 10 months of the pandemic, was cumbersome to use and was adding to public health unit workloads without much benefit, an independent report has found.

The report, released to The Canberra Times under a freedom of information review last week having been released in July in heavily redacted format, shows that the app identified less than two per cent of the total pool of close contacts identified in NSW, and no new contacts in Victoria or Queensland between March and November 2020.

The report, by research consultancy Abt Associates with technical assistance from Bdna, found that the app was the correct tool to use based on knowledge at the time of its launch, but that despite some improvements, the app has technology constraints, complications with manufacturer phone settings, and limitations in high-risk settings.

“Overall, the state contact tracers interviewed for this report have suggested it has not been a highly effective complementary tool for their state contact tracing systems,” the report says.

“During our interviews, the primary users and beneficiaries of COVIDSafe, the state contact tracing teams, have noted that the time required to undertake the various COVIDSafe tasks adds to their workloads without an optimisation of benefits.”

It was also cumbersome for contact tracing teams to use and required some manual input. All information needs to be examined on screen and then manually entered into jurisdictional systems or spreadsheets as contact tracers are not able to download the data, automate or match information.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: COVIDSafe

Comments  

0 # George Margelis 2021-09-03 07:48
In the context of the billions of dollars spent to combat COVID the cost of COVIDSafe is just a rounding error. The idea behind it was good, and as we move into the next phase of living with COVID it may have more use.
We should applaud the fact a digital health solution was considered as part of the COVID response. We should now consider how we can pivot it, or utilise it in our new COVID future.

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