A Budget Estimates hearing has revealed the Government's COVIDSafe app has failed to reveal a single case of COVID-19 in almost a month.

This is despite the app's cost doubling since last month. Health officials today said the app, which has been downloaded by seven million Australians, has not detected any new cases of coronavirus since September 29. At the time, the app had found 14 unique cases in the community. That number has not changed since that time.

"Health Department officials tell Estimates the Morrison Government's COVIDSafe app has had seven million downloads registrations … but only has detected 14 unique cases," Deputy Leader of the Labor Party Kristina Keneally wrote in a tweet after the hearings. "That number hasn't changed since Health's last appearance at the COVID Committee on September 29."

The COVIDSafe app initially had a budget of $2 million, along with an additional $700,000 provided to Amazon Web Services for hosting, app development and support, according to Innovation Aus. But the app has accrued further costs, and by mid-September these had ballooned to almost $5 million, according to reports.

While costs continue to rise, the COVIDSafe app has only identified 14 virus cases. Picture: Scott Barbour/AAP
While costs continue to rise, the COVIDSafe app has only identified 14 virus cases. Picture: Scott Barbour/AAP

 


The cost of the app grew last month when new contracts were awarded by the Federal Government's Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) to two separate tech consultants, worth a total of $2.3 million.

A $517,000 contract amendment was awarded to Shine Solutions, who worked with the DTA in developing the app, according to Innovation Aus. This brings the company's total contract value to $792,000.

Shine Solutions was also awarded a second contract for "ongoing development and enhancements of government application", for $777,700, for work from August through to February 2021.

A second company, Cevo, also won a contract to work on the ongoing development of the COVIDsafe app, worth $1.04 million.

When it was originally being developed in March, the COVIDSafe App was initially under the control of the Department of Home Affairs - which brought in three private companies to assist in creating the tracing app. This included $165,000 for AWS, $220,000 to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and $31,200 for CTO Group.

The app was then transferred to the DTA which kept AWS and BCG on board, paying them $700,000 and $684,000 respectively for their work on the app.

Another Canberra-based cybersecurity firm Ionize was paid $44,000 for the project, and Canberra based tech company Delv was paid $500,000 to work on the app.

The app's cost adds up to just over $4.9 million. Reports claim other costs, including advertising for the app, are harder to trace.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the COVIDSafe app would be more useful to his state once the lockdowns ended. Picture: David Geraghty/NCA NewsWire
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the COVIDSafe app would be more useful to his state once the lockdowns ended. Picture: David Geraghty/NCA NewsWire

The app was launched in April this year, and was met with some opposition, after members of the public expressed concern their privacy could be compromised by downloading it.

Earlier this month, contact tracers in Victoria announced they were considering accessing GPS data to track the movements of positive COVID-19 cases - leading some to question the relevance of the COVIDSafe app.

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews in September compared the COVIDSafe app to sewage testing, saying it would come into more use "when the community is out, moving around more".

He added he had downloaded the app, saying: "I hope you have all downloaded it."

Originally published as $5m COVIDSafe app identifies just 14 cases


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