Coronavirus: Majority of New Zealand's smartphone owners willing to download COVID-19 contact tracing app

A new survey has revealed that 62 percent of New Zealanders who own a smartphone are likely to download a contact tracing app to support the Government's efforts in tracking the transmission of COVID-19.

New Zealand's percentage of willing participants is significantly higher than Australia's - just 45 percent of Aussies said they would be likely to download a tracking app.

At the end of April, the Ministry of Health confirmed that a contact tracing app would become available within the next two weeks. The ministry said the app would use mobile data to track the movements of people who had tested positive for the virus. The first version would allow voluntary pre-registration to ensure the ministry has up-to-date contact details for users.

The ministry acknowledged that respecting people's privacy and security was imperative. 

Of the 94 percent of Kiwis who own a smartphone, the survey found roughly 20 percent were unlikely to download an app, compared to 32 percent of Australians. 

Conducted by Ipsos, the world’s third-largest market research company, the survey ran from April 24 to April 27 among 1017 New Zealanders, 953 of which owned a smartphone. The participants were asked to identify their individual likelihood of downloading a Government app to trace their contact with others, to aid the tracking of potential virus transmission.

Sixty-two percent of New Zealanders identified privacy concerns as the primary reason for not downloading a Government tracking app. This was followed by concerns regarding:

  • the accuracy of the app (28 percent)
  • how much data the app might use (19 percent)
  • not having enough space on their phone for the app (19 percent).

Almost a quarter (24 percent) of those reluctant to use the app felt it was an unnecessary measure, believing their behaviour would keep them safe from possible infection. 

"Our research suggests that many New Zealanders are open to the idea of downloading a COVID tracking app to help us maintain the excellent progress we have made in containing the virus," Ipsos New Zealand director Carin Hercock said in a statement.

"However, breaking down the results further we see that 36 percent are very likely to download the app - this number will probably be closer to the number who will proactively do this. Others (26 percent) will need encouragement or reminders to do so. Of the groups who are unsure or less likely (32 percent), some barriers will need to be addressed."

The survey also revealed that income disparity plays an important factor in some New Zealanders' ability to download the app and participate in the tracking programme.

Results showed that 10 percent of Kiwis earning a low income do not own a smartphone, compared to 2 percent of people receiving a high income. Similarly, 10 percent of those aged between 50 and 74 did not own a smartphone, compared to just 3 percent of those aged 18 to 35.

Of smartphone owners living in low-income households, 29 percent were very likely to download the app compared with 45 percent living in high-income households. Twenty percent of retirees were very unlikely to download the app, compared with 11 percent of the population.

Commenting on these findings, Ipsos New Zealand director of public affairs Amanda Dudding said: "The potential difference of uptake across these different groups means it will be important to consider that there is a focus on addressing these barriers.

"[Otherwise], alternative contact tracing methods [should be] available for more vulnerable New Zealanders."

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