More than one million Australians whacked the Government’s official coronavirus-tracking app on their smart phone in the hours after its launch, marking a major early milestone for the technology.
Taking to Twitter, Health Minister Greg Hunt said sign-ups for the COVIDSafe app topped a million around 10.30pm last night.
As at 10:30 PM 1 million Australians have now downloaded and registered for the #CovidSafeapp – please join us and help protect ourselves, our families, each other but above all else our nurses and doctors
— Greg Hunt (@TheHonGregHunt) April 26, 2020
That’s a promising sign for the voluntary technology, which the Government says will need an adoption rate of 40% to become truly effective. With a population of 25 million, that means roughly ten million active users will be required.
The app has been presented as a vital tool to help Australian society slowly transition back to something approaching normalcy, but there’s a bit of conjecture about how effective the app will be, and some concerns over user privacy.
COVIDSafe uses Bluetooth to automatically share a personalised code with nearby phones.
If you use COVIDSafe and are diagnosed with COVID-19, health authorities can use the app to notify other COVIDSafe users whose phones recently detected your code.
They can then use that info to self-isolate or seek medical attention if they develop symptoms.
Despite the hefty number of early sign-ups, some users are concerned about the app’s implementation.
Having Bluetooth enabled at all times is likely to zap your battery life, meaning if you use COVIDSafe, you’ll want to check your charge pretty often.
Citing Minister for Government Services Stuart Roberts, ABC reports that COVIDSafe’s Bluetooth capabilities might act on up iPhones when the battery dips too low.
Hunt has declared the data will be kept secret from anyone but relevant health authorities, and advocacy group Digital Rights Watch says it’s now up to the Government to prove it by upholding legislation around the app.
We’re still in very early days, and there’s obviously some conjecture about how this is all rolling out, but it’s likely the Government is pretty stoked on the sign-ups so far.