A recent article on Financial Times indicates that contact-tracing apps in India, Norway and Singapore are struggling to increase adoption. For example, in technologically-advanced Singapore, only 25% of the population has the app installed, while experts believe that at least 60% is needed to be effective.

It quoted a Singaporean lawyer who said the ‘distrust’ of the government’s handling of personal data as one reason.  However, as anyone who has run a large-scale app-based business would know, there are a few obvious reasons.
Very few apps have the appeal, luck and timing to go viral, as Whatsapp, Instagram and TikTok did. Most apps require constant marketing, very quick product iteration, and continuous user engagement to grow. US app-based companies typically have a function called Growth, and their Chinese counterparts have “Yunying” (which loosely translates as “user operations”) to handle this function.

How to grow 

What we typically see with government-launched apps is that they focus a lot of technology, but not so much on growth or user operations. With TraceTogether, we can see the following:
  • Initial marketing was a bang, but it lacked a continuous growth strategy to actively attract, and retain, users; The message was simply repeated, which might not be the most effective. Nothing wrong with repeating key messages, but probably worth taking a look at those who have not downloaded to figure out why;

  • Its product iteration could be faster: there were a few iterations after its first launch probably to fix bug; afterwards it became one new release roughly every two weeks;
  • If you go to Google Play or App Store, you will see the rating is not very satisfactory. The ones on Google are not answered;
To grow the user base to 60%, it is worth acting on all the above, in addition to addressing people’s privacy concerns (which I think has already been very well addressed with TraceTogether – some people will not trust no matter how hard you try).

Mandatory, and enforceable 

The government, however, has the power to make it mandatory. Mandatory should mean that if you do not download, there are consequences. Otherwise, it is just not enforceable.
On that, Singapore government has plenty of experience of making mandatory initiatives enforceable. SafeEntry is a good example, amongst others.

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].