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EDITORIAL – Unless new tracker app works for all there’s no point to it

(Image: Govt of Canada)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THERE ARE TWO KINDS of Canadians this week. Those who don’t trust the new COVID-19 tracker app, and those who are mad because they can’t get it.

The app announced by Justin Trudeau can be downloaded now — I did it — though it will come on stream only gradually across the country.

It ran into immediate criticism for not being available for older mobile phones with older technology. The Canadian Civil Liberties Union has even gotten involved, complaining that low-income folks won’t be able to use it.

On the other side of the argument are those who continue to be suspicious due to privacy concerns. But first of all, nobody says any of us has to use it. If we don’t like the idea, we can ignore it.

As a government website explains, the app doesn’t track a user’s location or collect any names, addresses or other personal information.

Technically, it’s not even a contact tracer. It simply tracks the location of phones that are in proximity to each other for more than 15 minutes. If an app user is diagnosed with COVID-19, he or she can register the fact, and the users of other phones that have been close by will be notified.

Yet about a quarter of Canadians say they’re “very unlikely” to use the app, which presents a problem, since it will be most effective if 75 to 80 per cent of us buy into it.

That, combined with the technology limitations, presents a real challenge for what was once regarded as an essential and effective step in defeating the virus.

Now the app is being publicized as simply another tool. If it’s just one more thing, and won’t really do much of a job, one wonders what the point is.

Justin Trudeau better tell the developers to come up with a version that works for everybody.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at mrothenburger@armchairmayor.ca.

About Mel Rothenburger (7772 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on EDITORIAL – Unless new tracker app works for all there’s no point to it

  1. I installed it because I dont worry so much about privacy issues, I’m just not that interesting for the Chinese or Russian governments to follow,
    and this app works fine on my 3 year old Samsung.

    Here’s the thing;
    1- People on the surface don’t understand how apps work as new generations of hardware come out. Significant new versions of operating systems and new hardware firmware, can easily negate an older apps ability to work … and that is magnified in the opposite, when a very new app like this has no history of being coded for earlier hardware / OS combinations, means that backwards compatibility to older hardware will be next to impossible. Each older version will have to be built from the ground up. This is not as easy as sitting down for a day or two and coding it to be backwards compatible, it just wont work on the back end, if you don’t just start again.

    2- For an app like this, where different phones of different generations would have to talk to each other via bluetooth … it just wont work at all. They literally speak different languages.
    Newest phones work on Bluetooth 5 or maybe 5.2.
    Bluetooth 1.0 was used in the 1990’s,
    and there have been 17 versions of bluetooth since then, the larger steps throughout not being inter compatible, which means an app like this would not operate between newer and older phones … which is the entire point.

    3- Stats say that the largest user base of cell phone users, keep the same phone for an average of 2 years before upgrading. This is the younger crowd and professionals who use mobile devices regularly … (ie; a lot more than you or I there Mel). And that’s the largest market, by a long shot. The crowd that hangs onto to older hardware for whatever reason is very much the smaller demographic, so even if it would work (which it wouldn’t), the commercial viability disappears, so building it would be a really poor investment for a developer.

    4- Think about it; If developers could create apps to work on every digital phone … dont you think they would? This is the panacea drool for developers; their product works for every person on the planet, but alas, its impossible. The slow growth of tech means that ‘new ways’ are developed over time to ‘do it better’, and its usually a rethink on how it has been done before. That development curve invariably bricks old hardware.

    4. This is in no way The Canadian Governments Fault, its a reality of the technology.
    The government is not responsible for people using old hardware.
    And the government is not responsible for technologies failure to be inter-compatible.

    Your just throwing out:
    “Justin Trudeau better tell the developers to come up with a version that works for everybody.”
    means the above lesson needs to be understood.
    He cant say that or at the very least if he did, he would sound like trump.
    … that version of the app does not, can not and will not exist.
    but it will work today for the largest % of potential users, and thats the best your going to get.

  2. R Marcus Lowe // August 7, 2020 at 7:47 AM // Reply

    Mel. You make a good point, only it will take a few minutes to get the point out to the only people who matter–children. Once the young people of society recognize the truth of the “Safety for All” tracking and vaccinations will become the choice of sane and reasonable people. People who do not agree will increasingly be asked to compare their nightmare fantasies to the nightmare that we currently see all around the world. Good Luck to us all.

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