Is the corona app a failure?

Logic would say that a successful app would have prevented another lockdown. The app is a good start, say experts.

The red screen of corona.
The red screen of corona.Imago Images/Florian Gaertner

Berlin-The corona app was supposed to be our saviour - Germany ponied up €20m in hopes of breaking infection chains. But the disease spread and we're facing a second lockdown anyway.

Is the app an expensive failure?

"No," said Anke Domscheit-Berg, digital expert for Die Linke in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. "The Corona warning app's time has now come."

Local health departments, she told the Berliner Zeitung, rely on the memory of those infected to track contacts: "I can say who was next to me at a birthday party or which work colleagues I had contact with. But nobody knows who is sitting with you on the train or bus."

Here's where the app shines and can do more than health authorities in halting the spread of the corona virus. But it only functions as part of an ecosystem. It needs doctors and laboratories that participate. "There are many weak points here," she says.

Domscheit-Berg says some of the blame goes to Germany's centre for health education, the association of public insurance doctors and the government itself: "Where are the posters and viral explanation videos? Where are the education campaigns?"

Many doctors never tell users about the possibility of using the app to get test results, and only 60 per cent who get a positive result via the app then release it for the app to use. And: 10 per cent of independent laboratories don't transmit results to the app while almost none of the hospital-related labs are connected, Berlin parliamentarian Bernd Schlömer (FDP) told Berliner Zeitung

"It is about the digitalisation of the health information system behind the app. We're only at the beginning of a very complex process. A healthcare digitalisation task force would be great," Schlömer said. 

It's not a tracking app that tells me when, where and from whom I was infected.

Deutsche Telekom spokesperson

Schlömer says it's up to each individual to act responsibly.

Deutsche Telekom, which developed the warning app together with German software giant SAP, says it's wrong to assume the app is there to track contacts and replace local health departments. 

"It's not a tracking app that tells me when, where and from whom I was infected," a spokesperson said. "We have an increasing number of positive messages and users are getting more and more warnings on their smartphones. That means the app works."

Ulrich Kelber, Federal Data Protection Commissioner, said the app's exceptional data privacy standards have given it wide acceptance.

"The Corona Warning App can only help contain the pandemic if as many people as possible use it," he said.

It has now been downloaded 21 million times and 16 million people use it.