Pandemic Platform Governance:
Mapping the Global Ecosystem of COVID-19 Response Apps

by Michael Dieter, Anne Helmond, Nathaniel Tkacz, Fernando van der Vlist, and Esther Weltevrede (alphabetical)

In: Internet Policy Review, 10(3). doi: 10.14763/2021.3.1568.


This article provides an exploratory systematic mapping of the global ecosystem of COVID-19 pandemic response apps. After considering policy updates by Google Play’s and Apple’s App Store, we analyse all the available response apps in July 2020; their different response types; the apps’ developers and geographical distribution; the ecosystem’s ‘generativity’ and developers’ responsiveness during the unfolding pandemic; the apps’ discursive positioning; and material conditions of their development. Google and Apple are gatekeepers of these app ecosystems and exercise control on different layers, shaping the pandemic app response as well as the relationships between governments, citizens, and other actors. We suggest that this global ecosystem of pandemic responses reflects an exceptional mode of what we call ‘pandemic platform governance’, where platforms have negotiated their commercial interests and the public interest in exceptional circumstances.

Read more: (open access).


Geographical distribution of [COVID-19]-related Android apps by country or region. Illustration: authors and DensityDesign Lab.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in the Open Science Framework (OSF) at Additionally, the available Android application package (APK) files of the COVID-19 Android apps covered in this study are openly available and preserved in the ‘COVID-19_Apps’ collection of the Internet Archive at

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