Consulting and IT bill for COVIDSafe app surpasses $5 million

11 October 2020 2 min. read

The federal government’s external spending on the COVIDSafe app has surpassed the $5 million mark, nearly six months after it was launched.

In April, the government launched the app to monitor and curb the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic. The app uses bluetooth technology to log contacts between users that have been within 1,5 meters of one another, and if a user tests positive for the coronavirus, the app sends a warning message to state or territory health authorities. 

The first version of the COVIDSafe app, developed by the Digital Transformation Agency in collaboration with several external consulting and IT firms, was widely criticised by many, and since, several improvements have been rolled out through iterative updates.

Consulting and IT bill for COVIDSafe app surpasses $5 million

This has now seen the total bill for external consulting, development and maintenance work on the COVIDSafe contact tracing app break through the $5 million mark. US strategy consulting giant Boston Consulting Group has been on the main beneficiaries of the project, racking in over $1 million for work on the blueprint, design, and enhancement to functionality and technology.

Built on Amazon Web Services cloud technology, several AWS integrators have been brought on board for building, hosting and maintaining the app. Most notable player are Shine Solutions, which has worked with the Digital Transformation Agency since the initial stages (nearly $1.5 million in fees to date), and AWS consultancy Cevo, which recently won a $1 million contract for six months of support.

Other private sector firms that played a role in the app’s development process include Canberra IT consultancy CTO Group, Canberra cybersecurity firm Ionize, and technology services company Delv. 

Total external spending on the app is estimated to be millions more than the $5 million consulting and IT bill, but other costs incurred for activities such as internal project management, advertising and alignment with the healthcare sector have not been quantified by the Digital Transformation Agency. 

The spending frenzy has come under the spotlights off late, because critics believe the app is not delivering the returns promised when the project kicked off. While more than 6 million people have downloaded the much-hyped app, so far, a low number of confirmed Covid-19 cases have come through via the app, with manual contact tracing still responsible for the bulk of people diagnosed with the virus. 

Alongside the impact to people and healthcare, curbing the pandemic is of vital economic importance for Australia. A July Deloitte report found that if the second wave of infections in Australia spirals out of control, it would hand devastating blow of $100 billion to the economy.