Since the beginning of the pandemic, many countries have rolled out national contact tracing applications in order to digitalize the traditionally labor intensive and time-consuming contact tracing process. While these applications were never meant to replace manual contact tracing, the goal was to augment these efforts to slow down the spread of the virus. However, since then, it was discovered that most of these applications introduced by governments lack the efficiency that is needed to make meaningful contributions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Government contact tracing is done through mobile applications for scalability purposes, which comes with its challenges.
For contact tracing apps to be successful, usage should be nearly ubiquitous throughout the country because of its reliance on network effects, which means the value of the application is directly proportional to the number of people using it. Reports suggest a 60% adoption rate at the minimum to least slow down the contagion. According to 2020 reports, Turkey’s smartphone adoption rate is at 77% and not every smartphone user has downloaded national contact tracing application Hayat Eve Sığar, produced their HES code and is effectively using the service. Recently, new regulations and rules were rolled out regarding the widespread use of the HES codes. With almost all closed spaces in the public sphere required to collect and query HES codes upon entry, the usage of the codes, and to some extent the usage of the application, will increase. However, as long as downloading and using the app becomes mandatory for everyone, one can assume that the “critical mass” for full efficiency is very difficult to achieve nationwide.
Another issue with national contact tracing applications is the privacy concerns. Because of globally accepted privacy regulations, contact tracing applications downloaded through Google and Apple’s digital distribution platforms are not able to use GPS to pinpoint the exact location of the users and only allows for Bluetooth to be used, which diminishes the accuracy of back tracing the interactions. Even with these regulations, many people avoid downloading the application due to their perception of contact tracing applications as an invasion of privacy.
Experts suggest the adoption of a more bottom-up approach when it comes to contact tracing. Instead of a national contact tracing application that is voluntary, a better way to ensure the protection of people is to target smaller communities with mandatory solutions which will be universally adopted. With the number of COVID-19 cases rising, Turkish government has taken preventative action by implementing curfews and weekend lockdowns. With these regulations in place, the main reason most people leave their house is to go to work. A workplace where many people work together and interact with each other daily can be considered a very high-risk environment. Since workplaces are contained communities, it is also more likely that universal adoption of a contact tracing tool can be achieved. Businesses also don’t have to rely on smartphones to reach everyone, a corporate solution can utilize contact tracing technologies that are not functionally limited due to privacy issues or regulations set in place by digital distribution platforms. For example, wearable devices using both BLE and GPS as proximity technologies can more accurately estimate the risk of transmission, combined with universal usage this can ensure a high level of protection for the users. An even better option can be using corporate contact tracing tools that are seamlessly integrated to the government service, which Boni Global’s Safe Steps provides with the recent addition of the HES code integration.
While it is important that most private enterprises invest in corporate contact tracing tools for it to have an effect in slowing down the contagion on a national scale, it is also important to point out the business benefits of implementing such a technology. Protecting employees from the virus not only brings reputational gains, it also keeps businesses open and active, allows them to avoid financial losses associated with reduced workforce and production downtime. Wearable devices can also be used after the risk of COVID-19 has subsided for other security reasons, especially in complex environments with mobile equipment and staff, such as factories and warehouses where work related accidents are more likely to happen. As workplaces digitally transform, wearable technology would become commonplace for businesses due to its many operational and security related benefits. With the global pandemic, the transition to more interconnected facilities will only gain momentum to create efficient and secure businesses.