Every time someone downloads the COVID Alert SA app – South Africa’s ground-breaking new Bluetooth contact-tracing app – they help to save lives. What do studies show about how our smartphones have become a powerful new tool in overcoming COVID-19 in our country?
You may be familiar with so-called ‘crowd-sourcing’ apps. They generally rely on user-generated information that is usually anonymously shared with other app users.
Think of the map and traffic information apps we use every day – like Waze and Google Maps. Uber and Airbnb are further examples of these sorts if apps. They might ask users to feed information on traffic, the quality of an Uber driver’s service, or of Airbnb accommodation back into the system. Then, other app users can make better decisions based on the community’s feedback.
South Africa’s all new Bluetooth-based contact tracing app – COVID Alert SA – works in the same way.
The more we use the COVID Alert SA app, the more efficient it becomes
The COVID Alert SA app asks users to choose to anonymously share that they have contracted COVID‑19, and this information is used to inform other app users of their potential exposure to the disease so that they can act to protect their loved ones and others. The more people download and use the app each day, the more beneficial and thorough the information accessible to all app users become. The benefits are literally life-saving.
Like many countries the world over, South Africa’s National Department of Health has used Apple and Google’s exposure notification framework to build the new COVID Alert SA app. The app is available to any person in South Africa.
COVID Alert SA app has massive potential for contributing to overcoming the pandemic
Studies show that Bluetooth contact-tracing apps help to significantly slow the rate of COVID‑19 transmission and to support countries to emerge from lockdowns safely as restrictions ease.
A team at Oxford University has found that if only 60% of people within a population use a contact-tracing app alongside other interventions, this has the potential to stop the pandemic and to help keep countries out of lockdown.
Professor Christophe Fraser from Oxford University’s Big Data Institute explains that: “Our results suggest a digital contact tracing app, if carefully implemented alongside other measures, has the potential to substantially reduce the number of new coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and ICU admissions. Our models show we can stop the epidemic if approximately 60% of the population use the app, and even with lower numbers of app users, we still estimate a reduction in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths.”
- Oxford University: “Digital contact tracing can slow or even stop coronavirus transmission and ease us out of lockdown”
- The Oxford University team also published their results in the prestigious Science journal: Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing
The authors argue that a mobile app can reduce transmission at any stage of the epidemic and also reduce the serious social, psychological and economic impacts caused by widespread lockdowns. And the researchers suggest a mobile contact-tracing app can help slow the spread of infection until vaccines and antiviral treatments become widely available.
The app is under 3Mb in size, free to download and data is zero-rated
It’s clear that every time someone downloads and uses a Bluetooth contact-tracing app within a particular region or country, the system grows stronger and this benefits every app user in that area by giving them ever more accurate information. The more people in South Africa use the COVID Alert SA app, the faster we will progress to overcoming the pandemic.
- Downloading the app is quick and easy – it’s under 3 MB in size.
- The app is free and does not feature in-app purchases.
- You will not have to pay for mobile data when you use the app – the data to use the app has been zero-rated by all of South Africa’s mobile network providers.