During the pandemic, several countries deployed contact-tracing apps in order to contain or reduce the community spread of COVID-19. However, the success rate in terms of acceptance and use of these apps was reportedly low. Using information gathered from citizens across four European countries and the United States of America, this study explores the role of national culture in relation to the acceptance of these apps.
Using partial least squares structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM), an analysis was undertaken of 3595 records from a cross-country survey dataset that is in the public domain and can be obtained from the Centre for Open Science (Study 1). This analysis was followed by another survey comprising 910 respondents (Study 2). The research model was then validated by using a qualitative approach and undertaking interviews with 51 participants from four countries (Study 3). The results confirmed the moderating role of national culture on the acceptability of the contact-tracing apps in relation to power-distance, masculinity, individualism, long-term orientation and indulgence in the pre-deployment phase (Study 1). There were, however, no significant differences in acceptability of the apps between countries in relation to uncertainty avoidance; and none of the hypotheses in Study 2 was supported.
The study concludes that national culture is significant in terms of the acceptance of COVID-19 apps only during the pre-deployment phase; therefore attention is required with pertinence to pre-deployment strategies. Recommendations regarding how governments and public health institutions can increase the acceptability of contact-tracing apps have been highlighted.