When the stark reality struck home that Coronavirus wasn’t just going to be a Chinese problem – or even a European problem – but a truly global pandemic that would hit us hard here in Australia, we knew we needed to be part of the solution.
So when our good friends at Mutiny called to tell us about a track and trace app that they were developing, we just had to get involved.
Most global authorities recognise that contact tracing is a key, with most organisations from the WHO to numerous national health bodies supporting its efficacy.
But contact tracing is difficult. Can you remember exactly who you were with over the past couple of weeks, at what distance and for how long? Many people would struggle to recall this level of detail – yet it is that detail that is critical to stopping community spread of COVID-19 and saving your life and the lives of your loved ones.
“A contact tracing effort of this unprecedented scale and of this critical and historical importance to the functioning and reopening of society has never before been envisioned or required” – Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
Currently contact tracing is a manual and laborious process that requires hours of interviews and investigation – precious time when close contacts are going to work, going to the shops, unaware of the risk.
However… where individuals struggle to remember and track down contacts, our phones can do it instantly – technology known as ‘track and trace’.
With vaccines a long way away, it’s clear that the key to keeping the virus under control whilst freeing up the population to return to some semblance of normal life (and the economy to click back into gear) will be in gradually modified lockdowns and contact tracing. And the countries which seem to be achieving the greatest success in this area – South Korea, Singapore, China etc – have accelerated their technology around ‘track and trace’ to facilitate this. However, whilst in countries less sensitive to privacy, track and trace is easy to implement, in markets like Australia we knew there would be a bigger challenge – one that would require collective will, trust, and public mandate to work.
Which is why lifting and shifting a solution from China – or Singapore’s TraceTogether app (which seems to be the Australian Government policy at present) – is probably not the right solution.
So that set up our first challenge: the technology
The Technology Challenge:
Herd is an app that has been specifically engineered to overcome some of the problems that the likes of TraceTogether suffer from. It helps improve the technology through four key measures:
- Distributed location data processing: only infected data is hosted in the cloud and checked locally on individual phones. That means data is not, by default, handed over unless necessary.
- Data is generated from WiFi, BLE and GPS (not just Bluetooth): that allows us to cross-reference three different sources and have multiple redundancies.
- Data is opt-in: people opt-in and can remove the app should they want. Long-term, even 1 in 2 people having the app will reduce the likelihood of uncontrolled spreads.
- The app can run in the background, meaning users don’t have to remember to activate it every time they leave the house (an issue with TraceTogether).
The app is fully built and tested, and currently sitting with the Apple App Store and Google Play Store awaiting approval.
But whilst the engineering solution solved the data privacy and app efficacy problem, there is another challenge to overcome – getting people to sign up.
This problem had a couple of facets.
The Endorsement Challenge:
We know that to drive the number of downloads we need for the app to be effective we need to get third party endorsement. To that end, we’ve been actively lobbying the NSW Government, Federal Government, CSIRO and talking to a number of organisations that we know are helping these bodies to evaluate the options in front of them. But we need help to get in front of the people that matter – so if you’re reading this and think you can help, get in touch.
We firmly believe that the technology behind Herd will be more effective than any of the other options on the table at the moment – not to mention that it has been developed right here in Australia by innovative Aussie entrepreneurs. And we’re entirely motivated by helping Australia minimise the health and economic effects of the virus, so we’re willing to hand over the code and marketing assets to that end.
The communications challenge:
We know that a complex message like getting people to use track and trace needs a number of elements to be successful.
We need mass media and PR to get the message in front of as many people as possible.
We need content to reassure people around their concerns.
We need digital media to drive direct app downloads.
And we need to do everything at speed.
To get ahead of the challenge, Edge has developed a phased rollout plan, tackling three key communications barriers.
Task One: Establish Credibility
Nobody has heard of Herd, and most people don’t understand the concept of track and trace. So we created Instagram and Facebook pages for the app, and developed a series of short form content pieces to address this.
We also provided validation of the concept, with development of a series of quotes from respected sources that emphasis the validity of the approach – for example this one from the Director General of the World Health Organisation:
Task Two: Launch with Agility and Speed
We know that the sooner we can get the app up and running on as many Smartphones as possible across the country, the sooner we can start to emerge from lock-down. So we’ve developed a range of digital executions, each speaking to a different motivation, which can be auto-optimised based on effectiveness.
Our executions appeal to both altruism and self-interest in order to cast a wide net. And we are ready to go with Remarketing campaigns to address privacy concerns should people see and interact with the ads but not go on to download.
We will A/B test the CTA between Learn More (driving to the app website and FAQs) and Install Now (driving to app store) to see which drives more downloads over time.
Task Three: Invite mass participation in high-reach ATL channels
Digital media alone will not be enough to drive the level of uptake we need to make track and trace effective – so we will develop executions for TV, Outdoor, Radio and High Impact Digital pushing the (endorsed) message, all unified under our platform: ‘Join the Fight, Join the Herd’.
But to do this we need endorsement and media funding.
Edge is working pro bono and will pull together a team pf production partners to work pro bono too – but we can’t get the message out there without media dollars to help drive reach.
We think that we have a great technical product and smart communications campaign that is ready to roll as soon as we have endorsement from a third party authority. And we’re super-keen to help Australia overcome the pandemic as soon as possible. If you would like to get involved, hit us up!