This week, I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar about the future of exposure notifications, the digital contact tracing systems used in about half of U.S. states. The webinar was hosted by PathCheck Foundation, a global nonprofit that works on public health technology—including exposure notification apps.
I talked about my recent feature in MIT Technology Review, which investigated usage rates and public opinion around exposure notification technology. Other panelists included Jeremy Hall, project manager of Hawaii’s exposure notification system, Sam Zimmerman, director of exposure notification programs at PathCheck, and Ramesh Raskar, technology professor at MIT and PathCheck founder.
It was a great session, with discussion ranging from the challenges of implementing exposure notification technology in the U.S. to the ways this technology may be used for future infectious disease outbreaks. With a year of work under their belts, Zimmerman and Raskar brought insider perspectives to the challenges that I had seen from the outside in my reporting. For example, Raskar discussed how Massachusetts’ own exposure notification app is still in a trial run even though PathCheck approached the state public health agency offering to provide that technology in summer 2020.
I was also excited to hear from Hall on how Hawaii’s public health agency promoted exposure notification technology in their state. At the time I collected data for my Technology Review piece, Hawaii had about 650,000 people in the state’s exposure notification system, including those who downloaded the app and those who turned on the EN Express option in their iPhone settings. That represented 46% of the state’s population—a larger share than any other state.
Since I did my data collection, Hawaii has added an additional 250,000 users, I learned from Hall. This includes both Hawaii residents and tourists; tourists with iPhones get push notifications encouraging them to opt into EN Express when they enter the state. Hawaii has also worked with county public health departments and local organizations to publicize its exposure notification system. I think the state could be a model for other public health institutions working to implement exposure notification technology.
If you’d like to watch the webinar, it was recorded and is available at this link—you’ll just need to put in a name and email. The conversation starts about one minute in.
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- Video: The future of exposure notificationsThis week, I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar about the future of exposure notifications, the digital contact tracing systems used in about half of U.S. states. The webinar was hosted by PathCheck Foundation, a global nonprofit that works on public health technology—including exposure notification apps.