Virus app downloaded by millions not yet ‘operational’

 

Australians desperate to return to the pub and get back to playing their weekend sport have been told by the prime minister the only way forward is to download the coronavirus tracing app.

So far, more than four million people desperate to do their bit to save lives and get the crippled economy ticking once again have downloaded the government's coronavirus tracing app, COVIDSafe.

But if a person currently tests positive to the deadly virus, their information won't be passed through the mobile phone application because the states and territories are yet to nut out how the system will work.

"The rules on privacy are being finalised, along with final IT testing," a Department of Health spokesperson told the ABC.

"The system will be operational next week ahead of the decision on possible easing of restrictions."

 

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd admitted to the national broadcaster there had been a delay in the access to data being made available despite the huge number of Aussies signing up.

"This (app) has been implemented very quickly," he said.

"What we're doing is making sure that the operations are going to work appropriately and safely, but also (making) sure that the people in the contact-tracing facilities in the states and territories are trained on how to use the app, and how to use it appropriately."

 

Professor Kidd said the delay in the access to data didn't mean Australians should avoid the app.

"The important thing is that if people have downloaded the app and they have it running in the background on their phone, it's already gathering details of people you've been in close contact with.

"There's a delay from now until when the contact tracer in the state or territory where you are based has activated the system."

Federal MPs Angie Bell, Stuart Robert and Karen Andrews get behind the COVIDSafe app. Picture: Jerad Williams
Federal MPs Angie Bell, Stuart Robert and Karen Andrews get behind the COVIDSafe app. Picture: Jerad Williams

 

PRIVACY AND PERFORMANCE CONCERNS

Privacy concerns were flagged well ahead of time, but there are also problems with the performance of the app itself.

The release of the app's source code for public scrutiny we've been promised could still be weeks away as well.

"The Government intends to release the source code in the coming couple of weeks, subject to final advice from cyber security agencies," a spokesperson for the COVIDSafe Administrator, the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) told news.com.au.

The DTA's Digital Service Standard has 13 criteria "to help government agencies design and deliver services that are simple, clear and fast".

The eighth criteria is to "make all new source code open by default".

According to the agency, making source code open saves money, increases transparency, and adds benefits through improvements by other developers.

By the time an app goes live, the DTA said the developers should be able to show how they are making the source code open and reusable, provided guidance for open source contributors, and detailed how they are going to handle bug fixes and updates to the code.

The Agency is yet to confirm whether those criteria apply to COVIDSafe.

You don't have to download the app and the Government has said making it mandatory would be "unacceptable" for Australia.

More than 4 million Australians have signed up for the COVIDSafe app. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
More than 4 million Australians have signed up for the COVIDSafe app. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

And while around 15 per cent of the population has already downloaded the app, it's thought many more still need to do it before it can be effective.

At first it was said around 40 per cent of the population needed to download the app, but chief medical officer Dr Brendan Murphy thinks even more people will download it.

"Good uptake, in my mind, would be well over half the people and I think we will get it because I think Australians will rise to the challenge because they have risen to the challenge of distancing," chief medical officer Dr Brendan Murphy said at the announcement of the app's release.

Originally published as Tracing app not yet 'operational'


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