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The COVIDSafe app is just another expensive fail

By Sonia Hickey

This week, Victoria’s health minister openly mocked the COVIDSafe app. With the program still costing $100,000 a month, the joke is on us.

There has been a litany of problems with the Government’s app, leading many to question whether the millions of taxpayer dollars spent has been worth it.

There were initial concerns about the collection and use of data and privacy, and given the great failure that was the 2016 online Census and the widescale privacy breaches associated with My Health Record, these concerns certainly continue.

Then there were the hoax messages that the Australian Federal Police were called to investigate after many users reported receiving a text when they were further than 20 kilometres from home.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that an early version of the app accidentally informed several users that they had ‘tested positive for Covid-19’, causing members of the public to attend testing clinics in an anxious and distressed state, only to find out the app’s information was totally incorrect.

Other documents show that the government was aware in early May 2020 of a range of issues with the Bluetooth beacons, which are used in the app to record close contacts.

These beacons were also interfering with other applications, including glucose monitors for people with diabetes.

The Federal Government maintained that the app has been widely successful, and around 7 million people have downloaded it, meeting the original target of 40% of the population.

Yet as researchers from the University of Melbourne have pointed out, “…by May last year, only 44% of those surveyed had actually downloaded it. Plenty on social media are now saying they’ve all but abandoned COVIDSafe in favour of the QR code check-ins done via, for example, the Victorian government app or the Service NSW app. And when Victoria’s health minister Martin Foley was asked this week whether the COVIDSafe app had been used in responding to the latest outbreak, he said: ‘No. Not to my knowledge, and I’m sure in such a rare event it would have been brought to my attention’.”

Last month, former Labor leader Bill Shorten totted up the cost to the taxpayer, estimating that the program has cost $7,753,863, suggesting that the program will continue to cost $100,000 a month to maintain.

In October last year, AAP took a sterner tone, believing that the app cost the taxpayer a million dollars per each case the app discovered. “$5.2 million has been spent on operational costs and almost $7 million on advertising, taking the total price tag to roughly $16 million. The app has only helped find 17 contacts not found by manual tracers,” they wrote.

A policy paper from the Auckland University of Technology, the University of Queensland, the University of Auckland and Massey University, released in June, CovidSafe is unlikely to help prevent the spread of the virus because its effectiveness is “extremely limited.”

So far, this appears to ring true. Despite what appears to be a handful of small ‘wins’, the app seems to be yet another example of a government-led national technology implementation that has nowhere near lived up to expectations.


This article was originally published on The Big Smoke.

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  1. My say

    It maybe be a big fail to the public,but some one is making millions out of it ,laughing all the way to the bank

  2. Kerri

    Someone needs to publish a list of this governments failed programs and how much they have cost us. Preferably against a list of how much money they have tried to screw out of welfare recipients and times they have fallen short on welfare promises.

  3. DrakeN

    I just had a look at that site, Williambtm.
    A greater load of garbage I have yet to read.
    The real worry is that too many people take this kind of quackery as gospel and fail to follow the activities and other writings of the author.

  4. GL


    I just spent about fifteen minutes perusing the “compilation” and “A greater load of garbage…” is being way way too polite.

  5. Jon Chesterson


    Not unlike the NBN and Covid-19 vaccination roll-out. Here in the Blue Mountains our NBN boxes blow up regularly and you wait around a week each time without internet or phone line till they are replaced, assuming you can even contact Telstra. Over 10,000 boxes have been replaced in local FTTC areas due to the faulty product and installation, and when they do work they reach dizzy speeds of less than 4MB per second, 1/25th of what we were promised.

    As for Covid-19, people over 50 here can’t get access, many of us still waiting while 40-49 age group have access to both Pfizer and AstraZeneca and getting vaccinated in their droves across the State of NSW. Of course in Aged Care we know it is far bleaker, no-one knows how many have had theirs, who is still waiting and the adverse effects on their health or legitimate reporting of hospitalisations or deaths from AstraZeneca – All gone very quiet. Weren’t they originally supposed to get Pfizer in phase 1a and 1b? That switch happened very quietly too.

    As for the CovidSafe App promoted by Morrison, I wrote about this over a year ago – – No surprises here, none at all! And still people vote for the grossly incompetent, lying and purulent Liberals both here in NSW and Federal level. Next up, when you retire you can look forward to most of your eligible pension being quarantined to the Indue cashless welfare card, don’t think of trying to break out – Take a look at the restrictions and liabilities that come with that before you decide who to vote for later in the year or next – Who you gonna call?

  6. Vikingduk

    Wait, that smell, that ever ripening stench on the wind. What is it, you say? That’d be aroma of corruption and incompetence emanating from the foul corpse of what is tragically known as the federal government. A sickening, vile spectacle; it’d make a brown dog weep.

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