73% of Australians say they would use a government COVID-19 contact tracing app

Simon Dennis, Josh White, Paul Garrett, Daniel Little, Amy Perfors,
Yoshi Kashima, Stephan Lewandowsky*
University of Melbourne
University of Bristol*

73% of Australians say they would download and use a government COVID-19 tracking app to help reduce the spread of the virus if the government could guarantee it had a 6-month expiry date. In the absence of such a guarantee, 63% of Australians say they would use the app.

This data comes from the second installment of a 4-part survey about the community perception of the use of tracking technologies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We surveyed 1500 people balanced to match the populace on gender, age, and state of residence. Participants were presented with scenarios that described how various tracking technologies might be used to combat COVID-19 and asked for their opinions.

In one scenario, we presented participants the Australian Government developed COVID-19 tracing app. The use of the app would be voluntary and the data from the app would only be used to alert those who may have been exposed to somebody with COVID-19. 63% of Australians said they would download this app.

Our results may provide some insight into the level of adoption of this app in the Australian community. However, CHDH director Professor Simon Dennis has cautioned that there is often a considerable gap between stated intentions and actual behaviour:

The stated intention to download an app is not the same thing as actually doing it. And so, you would expect that the percentage of people who will actually ... [download the app] will be somewhat lower. Professor Simon Dennis

Indeed, since the release of the Government’s plans to introduce a COVID-tracing app, we have already seen the percentage of people who say they would download the app decrease. Comparing our most recent results (taken after the Government’s announcement) with our previous data from early April (before the announcement), reveals a 7% decrease in intention to download the app.

This may be because participants no longer treat this scenario as purely hypothetical, and/or due to the considerable media discussion about the privacy and social consequences of the government’s proposed tracing app.

Another scenario presented to participants depicts Apple and Google’s proposed COVID-tracing system that is pushed to existing smartphones via an operating system update. Privacy experts have recently opined that Apple and Google’s solution better preserves the privacy of users as location data is not used and it is difficult for people who are notified to determine who it was who tested positive.

While many privacy experts prefer Apple and Google’s system over the proposed Government app, there is no difference in support among the Australian community. 71% of participants said that they would use these capabilities if they had a 6-month expiry date, and 64% would use it in the absence of such a guarantee.

To find out more about our methods and results see here.

To see the results from our international collaborators in the UK, US, & Taiwan see here.

More Information

Simon Dennis | CHDH director