This is a delicate exercise which the French Secretary of State for Digital Cédric O carried out. This Tuesday, June 23, presented a progress report concerning the mobile application for monitoring contact cases, StopCovid , surrounded by Maurice-Pierre Planel, Deputy Director General of Health, Simon Cauchemez, researcher in epidemiology at the Institut Pasteur, Vittoria Colizza, Director of Research at Inserm, Bruno Sportisse, CEO of Inria and Guillaume Poupard, DG of the Cybersecurity Agency (Anssi).
In fact, since its release on June 2, StopCovid has been collecting “scandals”: the latest European “contact tracing” app based on a centralized protocol after the recent abandonment of the British, it would send much more data to this centralized server than initially announced. The revelation, resulting from the work of Gaëtan Leurent, researcher at Inria, would even have escaped the National Commission for Data Protection (Cnil) when the latter issued its favorable opinion, pointed out the site Numerama a few days.
If this step gave the opportunity to the various players to highlight the unprecedented responsiveness of the 150 people mobilized to develop, host, secure and deploy such an application in two months, the objective was also to reassure.
Very low adoption, efficiency still almost zero
Cédric O started with the most criticized elements: the adoption and effectiveness of StopCovid. To date, the app has been downloaded 1.9 million times but uninstalled 460,000 times. In Germany, the contact tracing app has been downloaded 10 million times … However, ” we don’t follow these numbers day by day “Because they are not very representative of the use of the application, said the secretary of state. Key figures relate to the activation of StopCovid, closely followed by the authorities: 1,816,048 activations and 23,953 deactivations to date. Among the active users, 68 people declared themselves positive and made it possible to prevent 205 contact cases. 14 notifications were sent to people deemed to be at risk for testing.
As FranceInfo already revealed 6 days ago, the #StopCovid app has been “activated” only 1.8 million times since its launch (Cédric O believes that this result is consistent with his expectations) pic.twitter. com / 8q9lp5xXyd
– Marie Turcan (@TurcanMarie) June 23, 2020
These results may seem meager, but they must be taken in the context of a ” a faster than expected decline in the prevalence of the disease “Says the Secretary of State. Understand: it is only in the case of a second wave that we can judge the effectiveness of StopCovid.
Evolution of the application and connected objects
It is with this in mind that the government now intends to put the package on promoting the application, especially in the orange and red zones. An experiment was carried out in Guyana, still in the orange zone: 20,000 text messages were sent by telecom operators to encourage them to download StopCovid. ” We noticed thousands of downloads in the hours that followed “Welcomed Cédric O. The results of this effort will be reported by a field investigation, to be completed by July 14.
Meanwhile, the app continues to evolve. Today in version 1.04 on Android and 1.03 on iOS, StopCovid should offer an update (v1.1) from June 25. This update will introduce two major changes:
Google’s reCAPTCHA function, integrated in the first versions – and much criticized – will be replaced by a similar function developed by Orange.
The filter, planned from the start but not yet technically ready, which makes it possible not to reassemble contacts whose Bluetooth signal is too weak – and therefore too far away – or who have been close to a person for too short a period time will finally be implemented in the application.
” It’s time to open up new perspectives “Claims Bruno Sportisse. The StopCovid device should soon be available on certain connected objects thanks to Withings, a stakeholder in the project, with the aim of being more accessible to all and reaching new audiences. ” Our goal is to release a first prototype in early July, says the CEO of Inria. Next, there will be the problem of the capacity to industrialize… “
Future European interoperability still very uncertain
One question remains unanswered: the interoperability of the different European contact tracing applications. The Vice-President of the European Commission, Margrethe Vestager, regrets the choice of centralized server in France: “ It is a little more difficult to develop technical standards for interoperability between decentralized systems and the centralized system developed by France. “Cédric O retorts by pointing out that the problem is not only French:” There is no interoperability between other applications – German or Italian, for example – today. “
However, working groups have started in this direction, under the aegis of the European Commission. The second protocol developed by Inria, Désiré, could be the most promising response: ” With Désiré, the exposure calculation can be stored in a server as well [comme c’est le cas pour le protocole Robert, sur lequel est actuellement basé StopCovid, ndlr] that on the phones itself [comme c’est le cas dans la solutions proposée par Apple et Google, utilisée en Allemagne et en Italie, notamment, ndlr]. “
How much does StopCovid cost? Government Responds
At the end of the conference, Cédric O wanted to come back to the cost of the application for the French government, which was also debated and which was the subject of a report to the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office on the part of the Anticor association. Unlike the German (20 million euros) and British (3.8 million pounds) applications, ” French manufacturers who participated in the StopCovid project were not paid until June 2 “Assured the Secretary of State for Digital Affairs once again, contradicting comments made in some media.
From that date, however, a framework agreement was signed between Inria and the DGS to remunerate [selon une répartition – majorée – indiquée sur le tableau suivant] 3DS Outscale, a subsidiary of Dassault Systèmes, for hosting the application, and Lunabee, an SME of 15 people located in Chambéry and Capgemini for its development, operation and maintenance. ” Capgemini has decided to continue working for free until the end of August and we will launch a tender to replace them in September “Announced Cédric O.” In the event of a second wave, on the other hand, the cost could of course increase “, Nonetheless warns Cédric O.