Almost a year after German public health authorities introduced the Bluetooth-based Corona-Warn-App, adoption of the app is still limited, while privately developed solutions have entered the market. To understand the adoption of tracking and check-in apps in Germany, as well as the reasons for the limited uptake we conducted a study in March/April 2021, led by Simon Munzert, Assistant Professor of Data Science and Public Policy at Hertie School in collaboration with our Research Service team members Myrto Papoutsi and Holger Nowak.
“A decisive factor for the effectiveness of these apps is wide use among the population,” the researcher write in their report summarising findings from the new study. “Both doubts about whether the apps work and hesitation about data privacy can stand in the way of widespread use.”
The Corona-Warn-App has over 27 million downloads, corresponding to about a third of Germany’s population. Disparities between download figures and actual usage as well as the fact that the app provides only minimal information about users to central authorities make it difficult to evaluate its usage. In order to understand who is using the app and other COVID-19 apps and which obstacles may prevent their usage, we combined two complementary methods: We surveyed 2,099 smartphone users in Germany. Half of the sample derived from our metered panel where we were able to actually measure the usage of the apps.
The results show that the Corona-Warn-App remains the dominant tracking app in Germany with 79% awareness; nearly double as high as the closest competitor, the privately developed Luca app. The Corona-Warn-App’s user base also dwarfs those of its competitors, and most Luca users are also Corona-Warn-App users. Even so, just slightly more than a third of participants had installed the Corona-Warn-App.
In the case of the Corona-Warn-App, the most common cause of non-use is sceptism about its effectiveness, with 57% of non-users naming this the primary reason. This is followed by concerns about government surveillance and data privacy (both 25%) and the fact the app requires a constant Bluetooth connection (24%). Confirming an earlier study by Simon Munzert in cooperation with respondi, conducted with a similar approach, combining metering and survey methods, this study also finds that people most likely to use a tracking app are already less likely to engage in risky behaviour which might result in them becoming infected.
Discussing the limited adoption of the Corona-Warn-App and its competitors, we found signs that the app could yet widen its user base. The recent update to the Corona-Warn-App, which simplifies contact tracing with QR code check-in, seems to be a promising development. Hence, the current challenge lies in convincing current non-users through communicating clearly and advertising the app’s functionality. The new update, which adds the privacy-by-design check-in functionality to version 2.0, could be a major step forward in that direction.
Learn more here in the full study report (German).