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Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Monday morning that a second version of the Covid-19 patient tracing application would be available for download from October 22. However, it will be necessary to avoid certain pitfalls so that it does not meet the same fate as the original version.
“No, I didn’t.” The admission of Prime Minister Jean Castex on the France 2 set on September 24 was symbolic of the fiasco that StopCovid represented. While the government relied heavily in the spring on this application for tracing Covid-19 patients to limit the chains of contamination to the new coronavirus, Jean Castex and several of his ministers admitted that evening not having installed it on their phones .
Like them, a large majority of French people have shunned StopCovid, which has only been downloaded by 2.6 million people, according to official figures released in early October. In comparison, the UK and German apps were installed by 16 million and 18 million people, respectively.
Faced with such a fiasco – only 7,969 people declared themselves positive for 472 notifications sent to potential contact cases – the government therefore decided to launch a new version of StopCovid, available from October 22, announced Jean Castex, Monday, October 12, on Franceinfo.
A new version of the StopCovid application will be available on October 22, announces Jean Castex. The Prime Minister acknowledged that the application “had not had the expected effects” to fight against the pandemic.
– franceinfo (@franceinfo) October 12, 2020
The challenge will be to avoid the pitfalls that plagued the first version. Starting with the communication made by the government about its application. “All the countries which have overwhelmingly convinced their citizens to download a tracking application have carried out a major communication campaign,” explains Sarah Kreps, a professor at Cornell University, who studies citizens’ attitudes towards this type of tracking. ‘application.
“People don’t quite understand what it is for”
However, not only was government communication almost non-existent in June, when StopCovid was launched, but its release also gave rise to an important debate concerning the protection of citizens’ private data, which may have sparked mistrust among citizens.
Digital Secretary of State Cédric O himself admitted on September 8 on France Culture that the government had failed to measure up. “Maybe we should have been more pedagogue (…). Maybe we should have accentuated communication, because what we see in studies is that people do not understand very well what it is serves, ”he said.
This last point is undoubtedly one of the keys to the success of such an application, according to Serge Abiteboul, researcher at the National Institute for Research in Informatics and Automation (Inria) and member of the Electronic Communications Regulatory Authority. and posts (Arcep), contacted by France 24. “For an application to be effective, you have to understand what it does and how it works. However, the interface does not allow it, we have no way to find out if it’s working. “
The researcher believes that it should be possible to test the app with another person by pressing a button on their phone, which then shows on the screen that another phone with StopCovid has been detected nearby.
A tool that goes beyond tracing
He also cites the example of the UK application which is not just a tracking application. “It is a tool that allows you to obtain information on Covid-19 by referring to pages of the National Health Service (British Social Security, Editor’s note) with the latest updated figures,” he explains.
This track should be chosen by the government, which intends to make the new version of StopCovid a hub for the new coronavirus, according to Europe 1. The contact time required between two people should also be reduced from 15 minutes to 5 minutes, always according to the same source.
The context could also play in favor of the new version of StopCovid. While the government tracking app was released three weeks after lockdown ended, at a time when the French believed they had done the hard part, its little sister is expected to arrive in the middle of a second wave.