One of the big discussions around Apple and Google’s partnership on COVID-19 contract-tracing apps is how they were actually going to get people to use them. Casey Newton of The Verge joined a call in which the firms explained that the important is the second phase – baking the technology into a device’s operating system so people don’t have to install a health authority app.
The companies said that by phase two of their effort, when contact tracing is enabled at the level of the operating system, they will notify people who have opted in to their potential exposure to COVID-19 even if they have not downloaded the relevant app from their public health authority. My understanding is that the operating system itself will alert people that they may have been exposed and direct them to download the relevant public health app. This is significant because it can be hard to get people to install software; Singapore saw only 12 percent adoption of its national contact-tracing app. Putting notifications at the system level represents a major step forward for this effort, even if still requires people to opt in.