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Barriers to the Large-Scale Adoption of a COVID-19 Contact Tracing App in Germany: Survey Study

  • Blom, Annelies G1, 1
  • Wenz, Alexander1, 1
  • Cornesse, Carina1
  • Rettig, Tobias1
  • Fikel, Marina1
  • Friedel, Sabine1
  • Möhring, Katja1, 1
  • Naumann, Elias1
  • Reifenscheid, Maximiliane1
  • Krieger, Ulrich1
  • 1 University of Mannheim, Mannheim , (Germany)
Published Article
Journal of Medical Internet Research
JMIR Publications Inc.
Publication Date
Mar 02, 2021
DOI: 10.2196/23362
PMID: 33577466
PMCID: PMC7927947
PubMed Central
External links


Background During the COVID-19 pandemic, one way to reduce further transmissions of SARS-CoV-2 is the widespread use of contact tracing apps. Such apps keep track of proximity contacts and warn contacts of persons who tested positive for an infection. Objective In this study, we analyzed potential barriers to the large-scale adoption of the official contact tracing app that was introduced in Germany on June 16, 2020. Methods Survey data were collected from 3276 adults during the week the app was introduced using an offline-recruited, probability-based online panel of the general adult population in Germany. Results We estimate that 81% of the population aged 18 to 77 years possess the devices and ability to install the official app and that 35% are also willing to install and use it. Potential spreaders show high access to devices required to install the app (92%) and high ability to install the app (91%) but low willingness (31%) to correctly adopt the app, whereas for vulnerable groups, the main barrier is access (62%). Conclusions The findings suggest a pessimistic view on the effectiveness of app-based contact tracing to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. We recommend targeting information campaigns at groups with a high potential to spread the virus but who are unwilling to install and correctly use the app, in particular men and those aged between 30 and 59 years. In addition, vulnerable groups, in particular older individuals and those in lower-income households, may be provided with equipment and support to overcome their barriers to app adoption.

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