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Negative Returns for Spanish COVID-19 App by Bridget Ryder

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Negative Returns for Spanish COVID-19 App

An analysis by the Spanish newspaper Voz Populi has shown that the central government paid €35 for every positive COVID-19 case registered on its COVID-19 tracking application, Radar Covid.

Between expenses—including development, maintenance, and promotion—the government invested €4.2 million in the application. But as of April 10th, only 120,000 positive cases had been reported in the application, according to publicly available data from the app itself.  

The government rolled out the app in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, following similar concepts already in use in Israel, China, and South Korea. Users could download the app onto a mobile phone; then the app would track the user’s contact with others who had also downloaded it. In the event of contracting COVID-19, users could enter their case numbers provided by the regional government into the application. The application would then do the work of tracing close contacts with the infected person. 

The application was downloaded 8.5 million times, which, according to Voz Populi, represents 21% of the country’s population. However, each download does not necessarily represent a single user, as the app did not track downloads by one individual onto multiple mobile phones, for example. More significantly, actual usage for reporting and tracking cases was extremely low. Throughout the two years of the pandemic, just over 1% percent of the 11.6 million cases officially diagnosed in Spain were then reported on the application. Voz Populi calculated that with only 120,000 COVID-19 cases reported in the app, and millions spent on it, each case reported cost €35.  

Of the total spent on the app, the highest costs have been marketing, followed by maintenance. Vox Populi reported that the government sunk €2.1 million into marketing the app. For maintenance, the government contracted with the private company, Indra, for 24 months of “Maintenance, Support and Evolution of the Covid Radar Contact Tracing System,” at a cost of €1.7 million. 

Spain was also one of the first countries in the European Union to move from intense, epidemic-level tracking of COVID-19 cases, to normal tracking used for all infectious diseases. 

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.