Interdisciplinary experts develop solutions to improve Canada's COVID Alert app

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Beyond washing your hands and wearing a mask, experts say the formula for curbing the spread of COVID-19 is a combination of contact tracing, policy considerations and altering methods of data collection.

Leaders in mathematics, physical and social sciences, engineering, law and policy tapped into these issues at Waterloo’s Data and Privacy During a Global Pandemic Conference. Alongside Waterloo experts, speakers from Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, Microsoft and government agencies participated.

“The solutions to these challenges are not just going to come from technology, they have to include social, political dimensions, (shifting) attitudes and engagement with the population."

For the first time, Dr. Vivek Goel, president-designate for the University of Waterloo, joined the Waterloo talks. Dr. Goel is currently involved with helping Canada’s Public Health agency develop a Pan-Canadian Health Data strategy. 

“The solutions to these challenges are not just going to come from technology, they have to include social, political dimensions, (shifting) attitudes and engagement with the population,” Dr. Goel highlighted.

Minimizing risk through an app

Professor with the Department of Psychology, Igor Grossman, weighed-in on Canada’s notification app, which uses exposure data collection to curb the spread of COVID-19. COVID Alert claims to help break the cycle of infection, while letting others know of possible exposure before symptoms arise.

After analyzing the app’s popularity amongst residents, Grossman identifies the most dramatic differences between those who choose to install the app versus those who don’t is their trust in government.

[Read the full story in Waterloo Stories.]

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