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Friday, 30 October 2020 11:10

Fancy some contact tracing? That'll be $4.12 million a pop Featured

Fancy some contact tracing? That'll be $4.12 million a pop Pixabay

It's beginning to look like the Federal Government should avoid anything to do with technology following the revelation on Thursday that $70 million of taxpayers' money was spent on the COVIDSafe app – and only 17 cases were detected through its use.

That works out to approximately $4.12 million for each detection – though it may not be exact as my arithmetic is a little rusty.

But this is much better than when I inquired of every health department in the country in July — very few responded to my queries — about how many cases had been tracked through the app.

The one department which was polite enough to respond, the Queensland Department of Health, said not a single COVID-19 positive individual had been identified as a COVIDSafe user in the state.

When one considers that 27,554 confirmed cases have been found in the country, that means the great app — which we were constantly urged to download and install despite its myriad tech glitches — found only 0.06% of the cases.

Once again, a word of caution: I never got the highest marks at school when it came to arithmetic.

The Boston Consulting Group was one organisation to benefit from this waste of public money. As the good folk at InnovationAus reported, by 21 July this mob had banked more than a million Australian dollars.

Another beneficiary was the American cloud provider, Amazon Web Services, which took home about three-quarters of a million for whatever role they played in the creation of this waste.

Despite this, the chief executive of the Digital Transformation Agency, Randall Brugeaud is still trying to spin things.

One of his quotes from Senate Estimates on Thursday says it all: "What the numbers represent is the base that has been reported by the states and territories, but it hides the fact this propagates very broadly … when it comes to the total number of positive cases in Australia that may relate to a significant number of close contacts.

"Likewise, with a very small number of close contacts that are identified in the app, that could relate to many contacts that are related to that particular case."

My English is not that strong either, so I'll leave it to you, gentle reader, to figure out what that means.

Given that the prime minister's nickname is Scotty from Marketing, it is not surprising that most of the money that has been splashed out on this useless app has been spent on marketing. Plenty of pigs available to feed at that trough.

This is the same government — admittedly, not led by the same individual — that said the national broadband network would be built for $29 billion. You can multiply that figure by two and subtract one to get the current estimate – $57 billion. Just a rounding error for guys like Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, I'm sure.

Or you can look at the famous Robodebt scheme — hatched by the same government — which allegedly sent people to early graves by scaring the bejesus out of them by accusing them of owing money to Centrelink, money which they no longer had and were unable to repay.

But when it comes to the time when people can hold the government responsible for this kind of wasteful expenditure, they will all look at the most insular issues and vote according to those instead.

People who vote that way deserve the leaders they get.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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