COVID Defender Project

The single greatest challenge facing humanity today is the COVID pandemic.

And so, FutureLab has suspended many of its initiatives and has joined the front line of software for COVID response.

This is the COVID Defender project.


The impact of the global COVID 19 pandemic is devastating, as every country is marshaling scarce resources to help those who are afflicted and their caregivers. Beyond these immediate needs and short-term policies like social distancing for everyone, what can governments do to create strategies and processes that will enable society and the economy to function safely and effectively in the post-COVID 19 world? For this, the risk of contagion must be managed at both the personal and community levels.

One of the reasons that Singapore has less than 1700 cases of COVID (as of April 8, 2020), despite not imposing a lockdown until April 7, is because they implemented contact tracing very rigorously. They even deployed a contact tracing app, Trace Together, to automate the process, a brilliant first generation attempt to solve the problem. Here’s how it works: Once someone tests positive, the app contacts everyone they were near during the previous two weeks and instructs them to get tested as well. The country’s proactive policies will likely result in a per capita fatality rate more than an order of magnitude lower than in the United States.  

However, the design of this app is tuned to fit the Singaporean culture, and the approach will probably not work as well in America. In fact, although over a half million downloads happened in the first few days, the total adoption rate was only about 10%, nowhere near what would be required for such an app to have a significant impact. This is because the app was designed with the Health Ministry as the customer, rather than an end-user focus... in other words, in simple contact tracing apps, community participation is valued over tacit user needs.

What will work in the US, and possibly globally as well, is to use user-centric design thinking that addresses unarticulated human needs that blend community interest with self-interest. All within a context and a next generation framework for personal infection risk management. 

This is exactly what we’ve done with our app, COVID Defender – we have implemented an innovation-forward, user-centric approach to pandemic mitigation that goes far beyond contact tracing. And doing so without abdicating our responsibility to ensure user privacy.  

We will formally announce this project soon, so stay tuned. If you’d like to find out more about this project right away, please contact us via the contact form below.


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