Three months ago, the South African COVID-19 App was launched as one of a number of weapons to fight COVID-19 and potential second wave. Some South Africans were very negative about this tool partly due to concerns about privacy. A few months down the line, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address indicated that only more than a million had downloaded the app. Currently, South Africa is experiencing its second wave of the coronavirus.
At this point in time, a question has to be asked about the real reason for low number of downloads of the COVID-19 App in South Africa. An easy and simple answer is that the downloads are low due to privacy concerns however this is not a complete story.
The COVID-19 app is an important cog in the COVID-19 fighting machinery and yet it does not receive the promotion it deserves. South Africa has done well in promoting the use of masks however the same cannot be said about the COVID-19 App. Everywhere you go at shopping centres and office blocks there are signs that remind citizens to wear masks.
The COVID-19 app is nowhere to be found across most promotional items about COVID-19 except briefly online.
There’s an assumption that now that the app has been launched people will simply download the app. This is a fallacy about technology products. All technology products and services require an adoption strategy to encourage usage of the product or service. This is even more important for the COVID-19 App in view of the fact that the app has suffered from false information about privacy and government trust issues. This fact alone highlights the need for a serious adoption strategy for the app. An adoption strategy can include such things as rewards and in some instances mandatory download drive of the app in cases where there’s a resurgence of COVID-19. In many facilities, people are requested to share their personal information. In addition to such paper-based solutions, would it not be better to require or at least remind people to download the app?
Once a society has adopted the app, the next step should be transparency. Citizens need regular updates about how the app is performing. Currently, South Africans know little about how the app is benefiting the current users who downloaded the app. The COVID-19 app is tracking the spread of the coronavirus, to be effective, and to get more users, the app itself should be tracked. Citizens should have ease of access to the information that is collected by the app. Such information can simply show in a live format where you are likely to come across COVID-19 cases. Transparency about the COVID-19 app will only strengthen trust in technology and encourage more people to download the app.The more citizens see for themselves what is happening without being told by a government official the more people will trust and act. It would be unreasonable to expect 100% adoption and all 60 million South Africans to adopt the app. There’s however a need to try harder to get more people to make use of the app. That will require a change in the current adoption strategy and complete transparency about the app. South Africans love to talk about the 4th Industrial Revolution and its benefits. COVID-19 is giving us a chance to leapfrog and apply technological solutions to our most difficult challenges. Technological tools are there for our benefit. To fully benefit from them there’s a need to use them effectively and not expect that they will work without any action on our part.
Author: Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-In-Chief of the Fast Company (SA) magazine. You can reach him on Twitter via @WesleyDiphoko