The mission of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is to promote and protect the health of Virginians. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant need for informing persons suspected of having been within close proximity to someone with a positive diagnosis. Doing this efficiently and effectively will help to ensure we stay ahead of any potential resurgent trends in cases. This is vitally important as public and private sector businesses, the healthcare industry, K-12 schools, institutions of higher learning, religious organizations, and others will be relying on appropriate public health actions to ensure the health of our communities and maintain economic viability. The scale of the pandemic is unprecedented. And, tools to manage such a large scale operation have not historically existed. Fortunately, Google and Apple have recognized this need and worked collectively across their platforms to build a Bluetooth technology framework aimed specifically at public health, with privacy and security as the central component of their design. Google and Apple released their joint exposure notification specifications and configuration documentation in May 2020. A public health department or government desiring to use this service is responsible for building the actual app for exposure notification to be used within their respective jurisdiction. Most public health agencies are contracting out app development to a vendor. Unfortunately, this initiative will not be a “build it and they will come” type of scenario. In fact, public buyin is expected to take significant effort and very effective marketing. In other countries and states where proximity tools have already rolled out, uptake has been low. Part of the rationale is that these systems have used GPS/location tracking to identify persons suspected of being exposed to someone with COVID-19. The Google/Apple Exposure Notification framework does not use location monitoring, only Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. There is no personally identifiable information involved in exposure notification apps that make use of the BLE Google/Apple framework.
Benefits of the Google/Apple BLE technology:
1) It does not use location (GPS) to track users. No latitude/longitude data is stored or shared in this process.
2) Bluetooth technology uses shared proximity keys that change on a device every 10-20 minutes and can tell approximately how close one device is to another.
3) The BLE Google/Apple service will run in the background, even if the exposure notification app is closed. Because it is low energy, it will not drain the device battery at a rate that would occur with other apps that are open and running constantly.
4) Google and Apple have been clear from the beginning that states that use their exposure notification service will not be allowed to use any form of location tracking. Neither company is using such data, nor will it be allowed.
5) Google and Apple will only allow access to the BLE service by a vendor if the express consent by the appropriate public health agency and/or government administration has been provided.
6) Google and Apple will delete the exposure notification service tools from their respective operating systems once the pandemic reaches a point that public health no longer requires use of this technology.
Large Uptake of Users Required: According to experts within the field, a jurisdiction (i.e. Virginia) will need at least 50-60% of citizens to download and use the app for it to be effective. Fortunately, approximately 90% of mobile devices run on operating systems from either Google or Apple. Virginia must convince citizens that its exposure notification app is a valuable tool that everyone should embrace to help end the pandemic as quickly as possible. It’s a Multi-step Process: Using the Virginia-specific app for exposure notification will require multiple steps for a person to begin actively using the app. These will include: 1) the citizen will have to have allowed for exposure notification tracking via their respective mobile device operating system (iOS or Android); 2) the citizen will have to have downloaded Virginia’s exposure notification app; and 3) the citizen will have to indicate a positive result through the app, which will trigger bluetooth keys to search for matches with other citizens. Distrust in Government: There is a deep-seeded distrust of government, especially among minority and/or disenfranchised communities. There is good cause for this sentiment, as the U.S. Public Health Service previously conducted studies on African American men (Tuskegee) and latinos (Guatemala) without informing the participants that some of them were not being treated for their diseases. This was done secretly as a means of observing the effects of disease progression. In addition, ongoing disparities within the healthcare and housing sectors, educational attainment, employment opportunities and treatment by law enforcement all add to continuing government distrust. Misunderstanding of Bluetooth vs GPS Technology: Most citizens do not understand how GPS and Bluetooth technologies work. That is, GPS uses location tracking and Bluetooth uses proximity keys. Understanding this difference and transparency regarding this issue will be imperative. We must showcase that we are being 100% upfront with the citizens of Virginia. Increased Social Awareness: This pandemic has created a sense of social understanding in the U.S. that has never been observed , at least in our lifetimes. Many people are willingly wearing face coverings, not only for their own protection but for the safety of others. Social distancing has also become commonplace within the population’s psyche. In short, citizens are very mindful of their individual role in supporting the “public’s health”. Capitalizing on this awareness and personal willingness to “do your part” will be critical for buy-in regarding use of an exposure notification app.
Scope of Work:
The marketing vendor will work directly with VDH on all aspects of the marketing strategy. The vendor will also work with SpringML and Google Cloud, the application development partners, as appropriate, regarding marketing activities involving both Google and Apple application stores.
1) We need a name for the app Virginia is developing. There are multiple names already in use throughout the U.S. and other countries. Virginia needs an app name that is both memorable and inspires a sense of doing one’s part to help their community.
a) Character limitation of 30 for iOS App Store and 50 for Google Play Store
2) Develop a plan for marketing and promotion of the application to ensure constituents are aware of the application, its usage, what data it collects, and what it does not. a) Virginia needs wide-spread adoption of its exposure notification app. This includes downloading the Virginia app, turning on exposure notification via the mobile device, and sending notification of a positive result, if it occur.
b) Virginia needs citizens to advocate usage of the app and educate others, including family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.
c) Virginia needs to maintain app use, once installed and downloaded. Getting citizens to download the app only to delete it a few days later will not be useful. It is unclear how best to track this, if possible.
d) Virginia wants to avoid use of terms that appear overly governmental or have an enforcement connotation within naming conventions and explanatory documentation. Such terms include tracking, tracing, surveillance, reporting, etc. The term “location” should also be avoided, as geographic location is irrelevant as a mechanism for how Virginia’s exposure notification app works. e) During test verification, specific information may be asked from the user to verify their identity and test results; however, that information will not be stored in the app or on the mobile device. This is still to-be-decided. Including for awareness.
3) Develop graphics
a) Design the app icon
i) Google icon specifications
ii) Apple icon specifications
b) Support development of graphics for display in the app store and app store website
i) Store artwork/images
ii) App screenshots
iii) Google Play Store Feature Graphic requirements
iv) Apple App Store Artwork requirements
4) Established metrics will be important to consistently assess marketing success.
a) The total market in Virginia for both Android and Apple phones should serve as a baseline. Partial marketing success can then be based on rate/# of app downloads (at least 50-60% of total estimated Android and Apple phones). Should this be segmented into weeks, months, etc.?
5) Create a VDH landing page for the application that can be linked from the app stores, social media, search engines, etc.
6) Develop a social media campaign to promote app awareness and use.
7) Support writing and review of the App Store descriptions
○ Google app store listings – quality and discoverability
○ Apple app store – optimizing product page
8) Create a demo video for the app
9) Support selection of app Keywords/Tags in the app store. Tags are descriptors that capture the content and functionality of the app.
○ Google Play Store: List of available Tags. (max of 5 are permitted, examples: “Health and Fitness”, “Social” )
○ iOS Store: Choosing Keywords (max 100 characters for keywords, examples: “COVID19”, “Exposure Notification”)
10) Review in-app developed content for language and communication consistency
1) This link provides information on 25 contact tracing systems currently in use by countries worldwide. It includes the names of the exposure notification apps and other specific data related to whether it used GPS, non Google/Apple BLE, etc. In addition, there are a few apps already developed by states in the U.S. These include:
○ Utah – HealthyTogether
○ North Dakota – Care19
○ Rhode Island – Crush COVID RI
June 25, 2020 at 2:00 P.M
Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health Office of Purchasing and General Services 109 Governor Street 12th Floor Richmond, VA 23219-0331