The vast majority of Canadians did not use the federal government’s now-scrapped Covid Alert application.
According to Blacklock’s Reporter, a report by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam found that the $20 million program went underutilized “to a huge extent.”
“The app was not being utilized to a huge extent. Not all innovations might work,” wrote Tam.
“(It was) a good go at trying to utilize another tool in the current era of apps to try and protect the population.”
On Friday, Ottawa officially took the application offline despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touting how the program could have a 50% uptake.
“The more people use it, the better it can trace and therefore slow the spread of the virus. In fact, health experts say if enough people sign up this app can help prevent future outbreaks of Covid-19 in Canada,” said Trudeau in Jul. 2020.
In total, 6,951,575 Canadians downloaded the application or about 21% of the population.
The launch of the application was dogged by privacy and effectiveness concerns. A 2021 report on global attitudes found that 64% of consumers refused to share their health data with government contact tracing applications.
“People are very very concerned about sharing their data, especially their Covid data. They don’t know what people are doing with this information and they’re at a complete loss of where it’s going to go so in terms of contact-tracing they have no interest in that,” Ontario’s former information and privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian told True North at the time.
Despite the low uptake, at one point the federal government was considering expanding the program.
“The Government of Canada has begun to broadly consider how the COVID Alert app could potentially extend beyond a government service to Canadians and the public health systems towards a tool that will also support Canadians and businesses in our economic, social and mental health recovery and restoration,” a federal report claimed.