The evolving COVID-19 pandemic required a responsive, human-centric technology solution to meet the New Zealand Government's need to deliver on their 'go hard and go early' strategy for clearly guiding citizens, stabilising the economy and maintaining a confident test and trace programme. Specifically we knew that successful virus control is directly related to the speed at which contact tracers can reach individuals who may have come into contact with COVID-19. RUSH had been researching and prototyping solutions since the pandemic began, so when we were engaged by the Ministry of Health we were able to quickly and collaboratively align requirements.
The app needed to be elegantly simple, have clear pathways to action, and consider the needs of a broad group of users including those with access limitations, visual impairments, and low trust in Government. The final digital solutions were two mobile applications, a QR Code checkin and digital diary, a Bluetooth exposure notifications service, and a Rapid QR Code poster generator. The app is integrated with the Ministry's National Contact Tracing System which sends out notifications to alert users who may have come into contact with a COVID-19 case which speeds up contact tracing, ultimately saving lives.
Use of the app has shown to be more accurate than memory in recalling movements and dramatically speeds up contact tracers' ability to identify locations of interest and alert people who have been there. This stops the virus from spreading, keeping New Zealanders safe and businesses open. As of 9 May 2021, there are 2,813,364 app registrations which equates to more than 70% of New Zealand's adult population (15yrs +). There have been 264,427,850 QR code scans on 573,854 QR code generated posters. Almost half of users activated Bluetooth tracing (1,301,205 active users).
Protecting user privacy was critical from the start; successful uptake of the app relied on trust and confidence. Our solution gives users control of their own securely stored data which is routinely deleted and never shared unless authorised by the user. For every major release of the app we do a privacy impact assessment, and the app design was reviewed and endorsed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Acknowledging digital inequality, the reality for many Kiwis is low internet coverage, low end devices, and low end cameras. To provide a solution for the widest range of users, we tested on a broad range of devices and operating systems - more than standard new product releases would require. Ongoing active support ticket management ensures that we capture user issues and work to solve them. The app is designed and developed with high accessibility standards, not only following guidelines but aiming to provide an excellent experience for disabled users. The experience for visually-impaired people using screen readers is included in designs, followed through in development, and tested thoroughly including usability testing with volunteers from the Association of Blind Citizens.