Quebec launches online consultation for COVID-19 contact tracing app
MONTREAL -- The Quebec government on Wednesday launched an online consultation to take the pulse of the public regarding the possible deployment of a COVID-19 contact tracing application.
Eric Caire, the minister responsible for digital innovation, said that such an application will be doomed to failure if the population is not interested in using it, hence the consultation being held through Aug. 2
He compared what happened in Germany, where the population adopted the proposed application, with what happened in France, where the application was "useless," he said, due to an "anemic" participation rate of around two per cent.
"If Quebecers tell us, in a significant number, 'Yes', then yes, we could go ahead," Caire said. "But if Quebecers tell us in an equally significant number, 'No', then we know that it is doomed to failure, so why go ahead?"
The consultation will be an opportunity for Quebecers to express their interest, or not, in such an application, as well as to express their fears and concerns, Caire said.
If an application is offered to Quebecers, added Caire, it should exclude any form of geolocation, any use of biometric markers and any storage of personal information, in order to protect the privacy of users.
The free mobile app would use Bluetooth technology to share a random identifier with other smartphones nearby.
In the event of a positive diagnosis of COVID-19, a healthcare professional would provide a unique code to the patient. It would be up to the user to decide whether or not to enter the code in the mobile application. Those who receive a notification would have no information about the infected individual, according to the government consultation site.
The government has set a tight schedule for the application to be available quickly, which will likely result in the use of an existing application rather than the development of a new solution.
Caire expects to deploy the app four to six weeks after the consultations are completed.
The government is preparing for a second wave of COVID-19, said Caire, "and in this context ... all options to fight a resurgence of the pandemic must be part of the thinking."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020.