COVIDSafe App Has Now Cost $9 Million To Do Basically Nothing

COVIDSafe App Has Now Cost $9 Million To Do Basically Nothing
Image: Australian government

The federal government has now spent a whopping $9.1 million on its COVIDSafe app, which if you recall has found basically no cases of COVID-19 and done nothing but drain the batteries of those who have installed it.

Representatives from the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) on Monday night were asked a number of questions about the app, specifically its use (read: why are we still bothering with this thing?).

As of October 4, $9.1 million had been spent, in total, on the COVIDSafe app that launched in April 2020. That cost included around $2.7 million given to Amazon Web Services to host the darn thing. The remainder of cash was spent on “a series of capabilities that have been used from the market, ranging from the use of strategy services, development services and also legal services”. Whatever that actually means.

The DTA was asked way more questions, but as they handed the COVIDSafe app over to the Department of Health earlier this month, they had nothing more to add and suddenly forgot everything they knew about the app they’d been responsible for, for the good part of 18 months.

They did say, however, there has been 7.7 million COVIDSafe app registrations. They don’t know how many people downloaded the app and then deleted it, however. But we’re absolutely not using it, especially considering QR code check-in apps are much more user-friendly.

A report into the troubled app was published in July. It said only 17 unique detections had been found through the COVIDSafe app. But the government would like you to hear its statistic: that COVIDSafe helped with 37,500 potential encounters.

It’s worth noting, however, those 17 contacts were found in NSW and it was before the wrath of Delta. Even on days when NSW cases were pushing 1,000 around the state.

COVIDSafe was supposed to work by using Bluetooth technology to create an anonymous registry of close contacts (other app users). If one of your close contacts self-identified as having COVID-19 through the app, government contact tracers would be alerted and notify you to get tested and isolate, before starting manual contact tracing efforts.

It’s clear COVIDSafe didn’t live up to the hype, and looking back, Scott Morrison’s promise of a beer last May now leaves a sour taste in our mouths as the majority of Australia’s east coast emerges from months in lockdown.