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Published By

Ed Bernacki, Innovationalist at Brant Idea Factory

Countries are attacking COVID in a variety of ways. Most countries adopted a strategy to track people who have COVID or may be exposed to the virus from someone. Many countries have COVID apps to do this. These fall into one of two approaches:


1.Exposure: Apps designed to notify you if you were exposed to COVID. In Canada, the App will notify you if you were near someone with COVID over the last 14 days. This happened to me. I received this notification (I was tested. Negative). Personally, I wanted more information; knowing which day I was exposed would have allowed me to know when symptoms should begin.

2.Tracking: Apps designed to help people be contacted directly. In New Zealand, people register to use its app and then scan QR codes in stores, cafes and offices when they visit. So far, 42 per cent of the population (2.1 million users) downloaded the app.

The difference between the two systems links to perceptions around tracking people. People in different countries vary widely on their perceptions of government tracking people, even though those using a Bluetooth model are not tracking people. The reality is that Google maps or fitness apps are far more engaged in tracking people with Smartphones.

New Zealand also added a unique option for two groups in society

  • People who feel apps are too invasive of personal privacy.
  • People who do not have Smartphones – often seniors.

Its innovative solution was to design a COVID Tracer Booklet. The booklet helps keep track of where you’ve been, when you were there, how you got there, and who you met. These can be ordered from the Government or downloaded as a PDF for printing.

Offering two options, a digital and analogue solution is a sophisticated approach all countries should do. The Tracer booklet empowers people to feel more control over their situation. This would help many older people without phones. New Zealanders were given advice: keep track of your movements by:

  • using an app to record your movement
  • keeping a diary
  • keeping a list in a safe place, or
  • taking time-stamped photos of where you’ve been.

Download a copy of the NZ Covid Tracer booklet.

Communicating COVID with laughter

To encourage New Zealanders to follow COVID behaviours, it used the mythical NZ Police Wellington Paranormal team to produce videos for social media. Wellington Paranormal was a funny TV mockumentary series of police focused on ghosts and paranormal incidents. It produced about 18 videos, including a new one on the tracking app and notebook. People knew the characters and laughed with the video.

I wrote about the full series: Covid19 as a wicked problem-solving: did your country change behaviours and make people laugh? Link

Ed Bernacki has been writing about and advising on organization innovation since the late 1990s. He is now based in Brantford, Canada. Brant Idea Factory. He has developed bodies of knowledge in two related areas: Innovation Conferences and Public Sector Innovation:

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