BACKGROUND: Timely and effective contact tracing is an essential public health role to curb the transmission of COVID-19. App-based contact tracing has the potential to optimise the resources of overstretched public health departments. However, it's efficiency is dependent on wide-spread adoption. We aimed to identify the proportion of people who had downloaded the Australian Government COVIDSafe app and examine the reasons why some did not.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate uptake of the Australian Government's COVIDSafe app amongst Australians and examine reasons for why some did not.
METHODS: An online national survey with representative quotas for age and gender was conducted between May 8 and May 11 2020. Participants were excluded if they were a healthcare professional or had been tested for COVID-19.
RESULTS: Of the 1802 potential participants contacted, 289 were excluded, 13 declined, and 1500 participated in the survey (response rate 83%). Of survey participants, 37% had downloaded the COVIDSafe app, 19% intended to, 28% refused, and 16% were undecided. Equally proportioned reasons for not downloading the app included privacy (25%) and technical concerns (24%). Other reasons included a belief that social distancing was sufficient and the app is unnecessary (16%), distrust in the Government (11%), and apathy (11%). In addition, COVIDSafe knowledge varied, with confusion about its purpose and capabilities.
CONCLUSIONS: For the COVIDSafe app to be accepted by the public and used correctly, public health messages need to address the concerns of its citizens, specifically privacy, data storage, and technical capabilities. Understanding the specific barriers preventing the uptake of tracing apps provides the opportunity to design targeted communication strategies aimed at strengthening public health initiatives such as download and correct use.