Govt paid $3m for COVID info app

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The federal government spent more than $3 million on the development of the COVID-19 information app developed by a Canberra tech company in two weeks following a closed tender process.

Canberra mobile-first digital services company Delv was contracted last month to build the Coronavirus Australia app, which acts as an official source of government information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The app was released late last month and has now been downloaded 2.77 million times.

InnovationAus reported last week that Delv had been paid $1.848 million for the six-month contract to build and iterate the app. This contract was with the Digital Transformation Agency.

But Delv also landed a $1.438 million contract with the Department of Health to build the app, meaning it will be paid a total of $3.286 million over six months for its work on the information app.

Health app
Big ticket: More than $3m for Health’s information app

The job was posted on the DTA’s Digital Marketplace for one day, with only one seller invited to apply. Only invited sellers were allowed to apply for the opportunity.

Spokespeople for the DTA and Department of Health confirmed that both of these contracts are for the same coronavirus information app, and that Delv is not involved with the development of the federal government’s COVID-19 contact tracing app.

“The DTA and Department of Health have worked in partnership with Delv to deliver the Coronavirus information mobile app that provides regular updates and official news related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” a Department of Health spokesperson told InnovationAus.

It’s unclear which private sector organisations the DTA is working with to develop the contact tracing app, and when exactly it will be launched. The Agency has eventually confirmed that the mysterious “key digital project” it recently hired numerous people to work on is not related to contact tracing.

A number of expensive communications and engagement strategy contracts the DTA signed with private sector organisations are also not understood to be related to its work on the contact tracing app.

The Coronavirus Australia app developed by Delv includes a symptom checker, media releases, official statistics, contact information for authorities and a function which allows users to voluntarily list if they are in quarantine or isolation.

The app is currently virtually a replica of the Department of Health website, but there are plans to include more in-built functionality in further versions.

A number of legal and civil liberties organisations recently wrote to health minister Greg Hunt listing a number of concerns with the information app, focusing on a lack of transparency and information around its data collecting practices.

The groups warned of “unintended negative consequences” with the app, which could potentially lead to an “encroachment on Australians’ right to privacy, freedom of association and expression”.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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