It’s been a little under a fortnight since the German government launched its “Corona-Warn” contact tracing app. Thirteen million Germans—16% of the country’s population—have downloaded it so far. For an effective fight against COVID-19, Corona-Warn requires around 40m users.
France’s own contact tracing system, by comparison, has 2m downloads from a population of 67m, while India’s has 131m users – around 10% of its population. The UK’s, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described as “world-beating,” is not yet ready.
The rollout hasn’t gone entirely reibungslos (smoothly). Political debate has raged over privacy, in a nation that, thanks to successive eras of repression, treasures freedom from surveillance. The German government’s refusal to name a fixed expiration date has vexed some rights groups – though it’s unclear when a vaccination for the Coronavirus will be developed.
More recently, the app has bombarded users with an error message that the system “is possibly not supported in this region,” a problem the app’s developer has blamed on the iOS used by Apple, whose decentralized technology powers the app (France’s works on a centrally-held database, which would be near-impossible for Germany to implement).
Corona-Warn has even spawned its own offshoots. A startup from Düsseldorf this week launched an app-specific diary. It could help prevent outbreaks that have sprung up in urban areas like Neukölln, a central Berlin suburb, and Gütershof, a town dominated by the slaughterhouse Tönnies.
The voluntary nature of Corona-Warn, and widespread reluctance by Germans to use privacy-dampening tech (the country is one of the developed world’s least active on social media, and vast swathes of its Google Maps are blanked out) may prevent it from reaching its 40m goal.
But with German cases dropping—it registered just 256 cases yesterday compared to Britain’s 901—a doubling should ensure the nation faces far fewer issues than it’s European neighbors.