The Alberta government will spend $ 4.3 million by the end of the year for a connecting tracing phone app, which could expose about 1,500 people to COVID-19.
The government still has contracts with Deloitte and IBM to manage and upgrade the troubled ABTraceTogether app, which launched in May 2020, months after Alberta reduced contact detection efforts.
Alberta Health said that although 317,000 people downloaded the app on their phones, only 158 people entered the Kovid-19 test result between May 2020 launch and last week.
“This is an infinite number of people who have been infected with Kovid in the province,” said Dr. Jessica, a professor of public health at the University of Alberta and former chief medical officer of Alberta. Said James Talbot.
About 306,000 people in Alberta have tested positive COVID-19 since the epidemic began.
Talbot is disappointed with the app’s lost capacity, which he said should be a powerful tool during an outbreak of infectious disease.
“It may not be widely publicized,” he said. “Albertans may not make the case for why it was important for Albertans to do this. Albertans may have a natural tendency to not want to be tracked.”
News usage data were obtained after the Freedom of Information request was submitted to the Ministry of Health. The request for information in August was rejected by the then Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s office.
There is no information on how many contacts have been specified by the App, and finally tested positive for Kovid-19.
Combined connection detection
The App uses Bluetooth technology to detect when another App user’s phone is within 10 meters. If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they will enter that information into the app to alert other users who are close to them in the past 21 days.
The Ebtrace Together The website states that contact tracers ask people who test positives to upload that data so they can track their closest contacts.
But since July 29, Alberta Health Services (AHS) communications tracers have linked Covid-19 cases to high-risk settings such as a hospital or long-term care home.
According to AHS spokesman Kerry Williamson, after the end of July, tracers are not asking patients to upload app data, except for patients linked to high-risk settings.
The Federal Op took more action
Talbot said the combination of manual link detection with automated tracking separates EbitRes Together from the federal government’s Covid Alert app.
Last year, the Alberta government was adamant in using its own op – and not Covid Alert – because it provided data to connect tracers.
Talbot said abandoning widespread connection detection makes the app less useful.
As of September 28, about 6.7 million people have downloaded Covid Alert.
A Health Canada spokeswoman said that since the Federal Opening began in July 2020, 34,000 people in eight provinces and one province have voluntarily reported positive COVID-19 test results.
That’s one in 200 users. Comparatively, Alberta’s App saw a positive case report from every 2,000 users.
The Federal App began tracking notifications in February 2021. By the beginning of August, more than 75,000 people had received the notification, when they were in close contact with those who tested positive.
Covid Alert cost the federal government $ 3.5 million in 2020-21, but they have not yet provided costs for this fiscal year.
Matthew Fenniak, a Calgary software developer, was one of the first to worry about ABTraceTogether App not working properly on iPhones last year.
Fenniak said that even though the developers released updated versions, the underlying technology would never reliably allow iPhones to exchange data.
According to information provided by Alberta Health, the government is in agreement with Deloitte until December 31, 2021, to provide strategic, technical improvements and support to the App.
The government is set to pay Deloitte $ 1.7 million for work on the App. IBM has a $ 2.6 million contract to provide management and support.
“Four million dollars is quite expensive for the 158 uses of the app and the most inefficient use of tax dollars,” Fenniak said.
Health Minister Jason Copping’s office did not respond to a request for an interview.
Talbot believes the technology behind Ebitrace Together will help speed up the outbreak, hoping the software can be reused to investigate cases of food-borne illness or influenza.