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Countries Rolling Out Coronavirus Tracking Apps Show Why They Can’t Work

If there’s one thing we all wish our phones could do, it’s protect us from coronavirus. After all, they seem to be able to do just about everything else. Over the past three months, they have replaced schools, movie theaters, and family get-togethers. Once this is all over, who will even want to go back to the legacy reality of holding business meetings in conference rooms when we can use Zoom instead? And why go to a germ-infested doctor’s office when smartphone-based telemedicine can diagnose and treat many ordinary ailments perfectly well?

Despite the techno-optimists’ best efforts, smartphone apps will not get us out of the coronavirus crisis.But the coronavirus is no ordinary ailment, and despite the techno-optimists’ best efforts, smartphone apps will not get us out of this crisis. Public health authorities in many countries have pinned their hopes on the development of coronavirus tracking apps, which in theory could allow governments to quickly identify and notify people who have come into contact with infected individuals. Those who have been exposed to the virus could then be tested and isolated, potentially breaking the chain of further transmission.

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Published inAll ArticlesForeign Policy
Sydney-based globalization expert Salvatore Babones is available to speak on the Chinese economy (demographics, growth, technology), the Belt & Road Initiative, global trade networks, and Australia-China relations. Contact: