The Government Submitted A Stupid App To Apple Seemingly On Purpose

Remember the Cyber-Safety Help Button? You might remember it as Conroy's Big Red Button that when pushed, directed kids to a website that told them how to stay safe online. It was a poorly thought out initiative to say the least, but wait until you hear what the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy did next.

Freedom of Information (FOI) papers released today reveal that the DBCDE actually tried to put the $100,000 Cybersafety Button (yep, it cost that much when all was said and done) into the Apple App Store. Not a bad idea if you want a bit more traction, but the app was essentially just a link out to the government's cybersafety awareness website. That's all. Nothing fancier than a hyperlink inside an app.

Apple don't like you doing that sort of thing, and specifically states in its terms that you can't just have something act as a link out to your external site -- it has to actually use the features of iOS to qualify as an app. So when the DBCDE tried to do it, it naturally got knocked back by Cupertino.

Geordie Guy over on his blog reports Apple's response to the government:

We found that the experience your app provides is not sufficiently different from a web browsing experience, as it would be by incorporating native iOS functionality.

That was stupid of DBCDE, but it doesn't stop there. Turns out that the contractor who built the app with DBCDE thought Apple might reject it on these grounds before it was even submitted:

Bad news. Apple have rejected the app. Please see their full reasons below -it’s basically what we feared in the first place. Be good to get your thoughts on possible next steps.

Jesus wept.

It's an especially poignant time to find out that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (Conroy's department) continued to flush money down the tubes with an irrelevant app that nobody would use even if it did get approved by Apple, seeing as how Treasurer Wayne Swan today announced that the government won't hit its budget surplus next year.

I'm not about to get into government bashing here because the Opposition seem to have that covered, but what frustrates me is this part from the email about the app being rejected (emphasis added):

"Bad news. Apple have rejected the app. Please see their full reasons below -- it’s basically what we feared in the first place. Be good to get your thoughts on possible next steps."

"It's basically what we feared in the first place"?? What the f**k is wrong with you that you'd submit an app on the taxpayer's time and money that you knew lacked the functionality required to get it off the ground? That's not only breathtakingly incompetent, but it's also absurdly wasteful.

I'm not saying the government shouldn't do absolutely everything in its power to help victims of bullying and so-called cyber-bullying -- quite the opposite: it's great to see the government acknowledging the problem -- but releasing a $100,000 initiative that isn't going to help anyone is a poor showing. Worse still is trying to push through something that's barely an app knowing it would fail.

Must try harder, DBCDE. [DBCDE FOI response (.ZIP) via Geordie Guy]



    Seems like they didn't do any kind of due diligence or business case... hmmm...

      Unfortunately Trembre they probably did an adequate business case and due diligence which was over ruled by senior management as Apps are cool and we must have an App for this.

      Sadly, it's far more common than you would think.

      Even sadder, they probably paid a contractor to come in and write the business case for them. You could almost guarantee that amount is not included in the above 100k project costs.

    100 grand for this shit but they cant fix the road that I drive on every day to work to earn money to pay taxes? yeah that makes sense.

      Almost as much sense as whinging about the Federal government not doing a State government's (or local council's) job

        Actually since the vast majority of money spent by states is collected by the GST (Federal tax) it's a round about way of being kind of accurate, yes the state government is charged with prioritising where that is spent, but the money must be there first. now why is there less money? because the GST requires people to buy goods and services, and when people aren't the states get less. Who is to blame for people spending less is a very very complex situation, but that really is the crux.

        But it would be great if they spend the money WE earned by working, in a useful and waste free manor, which seems nearly impossible feat by this government. Unfortunately this is but one example on a laundry list of rorts, failures and blow outs.

        Last edited 21/12/12 12:04 am

      I'd suggest that's more of a state govt. issue, but anyway...

    "What we feared" is not the same as "what we knew". It's an important difference.

      The important difference is that for $100,000 they should have known

        Man it costs $5000 max to make a real app through a small team in India let alone a couple grand extra from someone in Melbourne!

          You have just identified your first Government contractual rort! Grats.

    $100, 000 for a webpage and an app to put a shortcut on your desktop?

      Sounds to me alot more like the Government expected an App for 100k, but got a hyperlink. The vendor seems more to be the issue than anything.

    This is quite normal for Government. There isn't the ownership on money that is seen in the private sector so people don't have a problem with wasting it. The project managers I've come across (though this can't be said of all of them) quite often have no clue about what they are managing and only want an outcome to keep them in a job. ie something that isn't enough of a screw up to get them fired!!

    The government could save almost half the money it spends by employing a more corporate mentality to funding arrangements and by employing people who are actually right for the job and having the 'balls' to fire them when they don't do it properly.

      problem is, talent goes where the money is. The government doesn't pay enough to be able to keep the really talented managers. So what we end up with are the rejects.

    Tony Abbet should of done a cost benefit analysis....

    Anyone seen "The thick of it"?

    i should get into the app making business. $100k for basically writing this {a href:"}. sign me up

    (turns out actual html works in the comments)

    Last edited 20/12/12 7:48 pm

    Boy you guys seem to be missing the point. The project, ie, the crappy website, cost 100k. A part of that project was a crappy app that was rejected.

    The developer should never have built the app. Any iOS developer knows that an app like this would never be approved by apple. Apple are very clear on this. They don't want apps thy font actually do something. In fact, I believe the first step they recommend is deciding whether an app is going to provide significantly more functionality/better usability then just a mobile website.

    The government is stupid though, the very notion that such a 'panic button' needs to or even should exist is ludicrous and spending $100K on it is just plain annoying.

    Can I just say, if you never worked at government, you have no idea of how much money get flushed down the toilet. This $100k is but a droplet.
    There will be a revolt if the taxpayers know what I know and it pains me no end to see how incompetent people at the helm make decisions they have no clue about costing millions.

    $100,000 that could actually have done some good if properly used instead of p...ed up against the wall by Gillard's Commandos.

    It's a crime that Stephen Conroy wasn't fired in 2007. Now it's a crime that nobody has punched him hard enough to permanently incapacitate him and remove him from his job.

    Try to less stupid or less ignorant; the department mentioned here has no responsibility for roads as the state and territory governments are responsible for them.

      Yeah, everybody, as MoC says above: "Try to less stupid."


    "What the f**k is wrong with you that you’d submit an app on the taxpayer’s time and money that you knew lacked the functionality required to get it off the ground?"
    (note to giz: the quote button does nothing in IE8)

    There is nothing wrong the contractor. He or she is just earning a living, doing a job. It's the manager that is running this "project" that needs to stop wasting everyone's time.

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