New journal publication on the engineering mobile apps for disaster management

Our paper with Ivano Malavolta, Taher Ahmed Ghaleb, Jasper van Rooijen and Mariëlle Stoelinga, Engineering mobile apps for disaster management — The case of COVID-19 apps in the Google Play Store has been accepted for publication in the IEEE Software journal. Pre-print available.

Several mobile apps have been released to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of these apps share a similar socio-technological context: they are developed under a tight schedule, with immense social and political pressure, e.g., concerning privacy and security. Further, due to their mission-critical nature, malfunctions can lead to severe consequences. These factors pose a number of challenges to the software engineering process of the app. This paper compares 61 COVID apps against 61 non-COVID medical apps, all running on the Android platform. Our analysis reveals several noteworthy differences between COVID and non-COVID apps: COVID apps pose more restrictions on the versions of the operating system, thereby limiting the reach of the app; the same number of permissions are asked, however, COVID apps ask for fewer dangerous ones; finally, COVID apps contain more faults and code smells, indicating that the code quality is generally lower.