4 June 2020

Prove that it works, address issues around trust, privacy and security - and ensure ease of use - are the top five measures that the government needs to tackle in order to win public support for the proposed contact tracing app.

A survey carried out last month by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT* asked respondents what the single most important action the government can take in order to achieve widespread voluntary downloads for the app.

The results revealed that the top five things that IT professionals think the government should do to ensure the uptake of the controversial app to contain the spread of COVID-19 are:

  • Prove it works! 21% (364)
    Respondents commented: demonstrate that it works / explain how it will work / prove, tell, show, ensure it works / make it work
  • Get the trust first 13% (221)
    Respondents commented: address concerns about lack of trust in government / tell the truth /be open, honest
  • Allay the privacy concerns 12% (217)
    Respondents commented: address concerns about privacy (GDPR, confidentiality)
  • Allay the security concerns 10% (175)
    Respondents commented: address concerns about data security / how it will be secured, protected
  • Make it easy to download 7% (125)
    Respondents commented: implement a decentralised model / remove centralised data capture

Other answers given by IT experts included:

  • Get the model right 7% (118)
  • Communication campaign 7% (116)
  • Delete all data when pandemic is over 4% (70)
  • Incentivise public 4% (62)
  • Increase capacity for testing 3% (55)
  • Make it mandatory / compulsory 2% (30)
  • Improve battery consumption 1% (23)
  • Endorsement from professional body 1% (23)

The survey revealed that less than a quarter of IT professionals think the planned NHSX contact tracing app will be effective in containing COVID-19. Just 24% believe the app will contribute to curbing the virus, with 32% feeling it will make no contribution and 45% undecided. Some 42% of IT experts said they would be downloading the app for themselves, with 36% saying they would not install it and 21% undecided.

Members told the organisation that data security and privacy were their top concerns, followed by doubts around the app’s ability to work effectively, and then trust in the Government. Concern about automating the advice to self-isolate was also an issue for 27% of respondents.

Dr Bill Mitchell OBE, Director of Policy at BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “BCS is clear that if done ethically and competently a tracing app can make a huge contribution to stopping the spread of COVID-19; but a majority of our members don’t believe the current model will work and are worried about the reliance on a centralised database.

“The government will need to work hard to convince people that ‘ethical by design, correct by design, and privacy by default’ values are baked into the app to get the download numbers it is aiming for.”

BCS received survey responses from 1716 of its members, in a poll issued between 11 May and 15 May.

View the survey results (PDF)

Contact the Press Office

*Responses based on an analysis of around 1,200 verbatim answers from BCS members following a recent survey on the proposed contact tracing app.