PhD Course Tracing

Virtual Research Seminar on use, design, data and privacy issues of Covid-19 contact tracing apps, fall 2020

6 credit points, grading: 1 – 5 (doctoral course)

The purpose of this course is to offer an overview of current and emerging information systems research regarding Covid-19 so called contact tracing applications. Participants develop either paper outline, research plan or a grant proposal based on this.

The course is organized in a format, where there are virtual introductory classes, development clinics and plan/paper presentations. Introductory session includes pre-readings of the prerequisite reading package. In order to complete the course, a student must participate in the seminar sessions actively and present and return the final paper/plan.

The course is arranged by the department of Information and Service Management, Information Systems Science at Aalto School of Business together with University of Gothenburg Department of Applied IT (SCDI/division Informatics).

The course is assessed through scale of 1 – 5 and based on class activity and the returned paper outline, research plan or grant proposal.

We plan to use NordUnet Zoom service for delivering the lectures and Aalto university network storage services for safe content storage and distribution.

The topic

In an effort to fend off the coronavirus while getting economies restarted, the world has hit on the same idea: a smartphone app that would sense close-proximity of other devices, stores this contact data and alerts people if they have been close to someone who has the virus or provide this information to healthcare professionals responsible for contact tracing for individual who has tested positive. Google and Apple have developed a joint API to support the development of the apps.

This has been seen as a panacea in Silicon Valley, but these apps introduce practical and theoretical problems that are familiar to many information systems scholars. To start with, the technology needs to be ready for wide-scale adoption and the penetration rates of the applications in the population would need to become very high.

These design-orientated questions need to be complemented with user concerns – global infodemic raises fundamental social questions around institutions, trust, rights, politics and conspiracy. Many even claim that the fundamental rights are in flux in Western societies – what earlier was seen a non-started is now within the limits of possible. ”The emerging controversies around plans to use apps for contact tracing in response to COVID-19 are once again highlighting the issue of the best ways for scientific knowledge to feed into policy making, where politicians must take decisions on behalf of society, writes Edgar Whitley of LSE” (

We seek to develop answers to the problems and issues raised by the apps during this seminar.

Registration and participation

If you are interested in this course, please send an email to Matti Rossi (matti.rossi at The mail should contain your name, address, PhD program information and a short statement of what is your interest in this area. The deadline for registration is 5th of September 2020.

The course is supported by Nordic Academy of Management through their Covid-19 crisis initiative (see and priority is given to doctoral students from NFF member universities.

Organizers and presenters


Matti Rossi is a professor of information systems at Aalto University School of Business. He is the head of the Information and Service Management master’s program and ITP program. He has been the principal investigator in several major research projects funded by the technological development center of Finland and Academy of Finland. He was the winner of the 2013 Millennium Distinction Award of Technology Academy of Finland for open source and data research. His research papers have appeared in journals such as MIS Quarterly, Journal of AIS, Information and Management and Information Systems. He has been a senior editor of JAIS and Database, and he is a past editor in chief of Communications of the Association for Information Systems.

Juho Lindman is an associate professor of informatics in the Department of Applied IT at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) and the director of the University of Gothenburg SCDI Blockchain Lab. In addition to the title of docent at the University of Gothenburg, Lindman holds the title of docent of openness in systems development and use in the faculty of information technology and electrical engineering at the University of Oulu, Finland. Previously, he worked as an assistant professor of information systems science at the Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland. In the field of information systems, his current research is focused on the areas of open-source software development, blockchain governance, open data, and organizational change.


 Edgar Whitley is an associate professor (reader) of Information Systems.

Edgar has a BSc (Econ) and PhD in Information Systems, both from the LSE. He is the co-editor of Information Technology and People, Senior Editor for the Journal of Information Technology and the AIS Transactions of Replication Research and an Associate Editor for the Journal of the AIS. He has served as research co-chair for the European Conference on Information Systems, track co-chair for the International Conference on Information Systems and was previously an associate editor for the European Journal of Information Systems and MIS Quarterly. Edgar was the research coordinator of the influential LSE Identity Project on the UK’s proposals to introduce biometric identity cards; proposals that were scrapped following the 2010 General Election.  Edgar has also advised governments in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, India, Jamaica, Japan and Mexico about the political, technological and social challenges of effective identity policies. He has contributed to reports for the World Bank, Omidyar Network and Centre for Global Development. Edgar is co-chair of the UK Cabinet Office Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group.

Silvia Masiero is an associate professor of Information Systems in the University of Oslo (Norway).  Her research focuses on the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the field of socio-economic development. I study the multiple forms of embeddedness of the IT artefact in development policy and governance, with a specific interest in its participation in the politics of anti-poverty programmes. Silvia holds a PhD Information Systems and a MSc Development Management from LSE, she has taught on several courses in Information Systems and International Development.

Tentative schedule

FALL 2020:

Topic Prof(s) Time
Introduction and organization Matti Rossi, Juho Lindman September 17


Privacy issues Juho Lindman September 24


Penetration and governance Matti Rossi October 1
Policy issues Edgar Whitley, LSE October 8
Development perspective Silvia Masiero, University of Oslo October 15
Feedback clinics October 19 – 23
Student presentations November 19
Student presentations and reflection November 26

Group work

Paper outline or funding application draft (including):

Relevant literature/possible theory
Planned implementation (including timeline)
Future research

Group work timetable

30 Sept.  Send in one page plan for the final paper/plan to Juho Lindman and Matti Rossi

1 oct. lecture 5 minutes presentation about the plan

October 19 – 23 on appointment. Feedback clinics

November 19. Student presentations

November 26. Student presentations and reflection


Edgar Whitley’s blog:

IFIP 9.4 BLOG Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries:


Matti Rossi (matti.rossi at

Professor of Information Systems Science

Aalto University School of Business

Department of Information and Service Management

P.O. Box 21220, FI-00076 AALTO, Finland

Visiting address Ekonominaukio 1 Room V209, Espoo