The federal government paid a local mobile-first digital services company nearly $2 million to build its official COVID-19 information app.
Canberra-based tech firm Delv was contracted by the Digital Transformation Agency to build the Coronavirus Australia app, an official source of information on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, in early March. It developed and launched the app within a two-week period.
Delv was the only company to be invited to apply for the project, which was listed on the DTA’s digital marketplace.
The tender for the app development, published online this week, revealed Delv would be paid $1.848 million for the six-month contract. The company is expected to continue to release updates and improve the app across the six-month timeframe. The tender has an option for a six-month extension.
Nearly one million Australians downloaded the app in the first 24 hours after it was released. The app provides a symptom checker, media releases, official statistics and contact information for authorities.
It also includes a function where a user can voluntarily list if they are in quarantine or isolation, with the app then requesting location data from their device.
The first version is mostly a replica of the Department of Health website, but later versions will include more in-built features.
A number of legal and civil liberties organisations recently wrote to Health Minister Greg Hunt about the app, raising concerns over a lack of transparency and its data collecting practices.
The letter flagged “unintended negative consequences” of the app, including the “encroachment on Australians’ right to privacy, freedom of association and expression”.
The minister has not responded to the letter, but a department spokesperson told InnovationAus the app has “strong privacy and security controls”.
The DTA has played a central role in the federal government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Along with working with Delv on the information app, the agency was also tasked with creating a Bluetooth-based contact tracing app.
The DTA recently launched a recruiting blitz through its digital marketplace for a mystery project that will be a “national citizen facing digital platform”. This is likely for work on the contact tracing app.
It also awarded a near-$150,000 contract to marketing firm 89 Degrees East at the end of March.