Apps and downs: Cross-country variations in the success of contact-tracing technology

14 Ottobre 2021 - 12:00 / 13:30

Aula Polivalente, Viale Romania

Speaker: Anna Grosman , University of Loughborough


Simon Porcher (Sorbonne Business School, IAE Paris, France)

Anna Grosman (Loughborough University London, UK)

Jean-Loup Richet (Sorbonne Business School, IAE Paris, France)



With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed a plethora of policies deployed by the governments to curb the spread of the virus and simultaneously sustain the fledgling economies. One of the tactics deployed by the governments related to slowing down the spread of the virus by tracing the contacts of individuals who were in proximity with those people that have been tested positive for COVID-19. Countries showed uneven success. The UK, for instance, has failed to take it off due to a number of mishaps, which may have contributed to a rapid spread of the virus and the highest death toll in Europe before the rollout of the vaccination programme bore fruit. South Korea and Japan, took a more interventionist approach and were amongst the most successful cases of tracing technology adoption. The variety in responses was not only related to the extent to which the countries were impacted by the pandemic, but also by the way in which the governments decided to intervene in the management of this crisis. Hence, in this article, we analyze the variation in contact tracing technologies across countries. We propose that the type and quality of government intervention drive the differences in the rates of diffusion and adoption of contact tracing apps across countries. We explain this as an outcome of the complex signaling problems and institutional drivers related to the nature of governments’ intervention. We test our hypotheses on a unique, self-assembled dataset of contact tracing apps and their governments’ characteristics across a large number of countries. The signaling mechanisms deployed by the governments seem to have varying effects on the success of contact tracing technologies, with trust and privacy being the major drivers in adoption by citizens of such technologies. We find that the success of tracking strategies is inversely related to the quality of institutions – more statist countries fared better than less interventionist, more liberal economies.