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What a joke – “Government contact tracing app will launch Wednesday, PM says”

It looks like the lunatics have taken over the asylum 

Today the PM announced that on Wednesday the Government will launch a National “Contact Tracing App” that is not actually an app but rather a “digital dairy”?

I have a lot of respect and gratitude for the way the PM, Jacinder Ardern and some of her ministers have handled the COVID crisis and protected New Zealanders.

But this announcement today is a further example of how the they are running so fast trying to manage this situation, that at times they look like a “mob” (correct term) of Meerkats.

With ministers popping up and saying something only to have this changed a few days or even hours later.

There is an obvious lack of clarity about the way they deal with some issues. We saw announcements around the rules related to the wage subsidy, to then have that changed several times. We had the rules announced last week around all businesses needing to contact trace and then not all business and then some businesses needing to do it in different ways. See this article – Level 2 rule ‘flip-flop’ hasn’t helped – Retail NZ

And they wonder why businesses who are desperate to do the right thing are confused.

If you visited every cafe or retail store on your main street on the weekend, you would have seen a different process in each place. And it is not the fault of the businesses. It is the fault of the Government and their mixed messages.

I get that this is a moving feast and they are running at a 100 mph, but in a lot of these cases they are the problem, not the solution. As the old saying goes- “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt”

And before anyone accuses of Government bashing, no I am not describing the government are fools, far from it, but I am saying that their communication regarding these matters has not helped.

Lets look at what was said:

The PM announced the new Government App would work alongside other contact tracing efforts but did not make clear what those “other” efforts were.
Does this mean as a business I get you to use my process or app as well as this new one? If a customer or visitor refuses to use my process and they say they are using the “Diary” App do I just accept that, or argue with them, or insist they do both, or refuse them entry useless they prove they are “self contact-tracing”
“It will let people keep track of their movements. It is a “digital diary” to aid manual contact tracing efforts”
Ok, so I record everywhere I go during a day? Sounds like a Tui Billboard. What if I forget some places, what if I forget my phone, what if I am a pensioner or child who does not have a phone, what if  there is a group of us and some have a phone and some don’t.
Does this mean as a business owner I am no longer responsible for the contact tracing process as “everyone” will now look after their own process. And if there is an issue at my venue, does this app absolve me of any responsibility?
I can just imagine a group of guys or girls wandering around the Viaduct on a Saturday saying to each other “Hang on I just need to enter this 5th bar into my diary” – Yeah Right!
“Concern had been raised about a fragmented system that could undermine trust and transparency”
Ok, so lets fix the fragmentation by adding another process into the mix.
“The new digital diary app would provide “national consistency” to help New Zealanders record where they’ve been and when”
In Singapore, a highly regulated society, only had an estimated 17 per cent of the population install a contact-tracing app they launched, and international expert said this data set, was nowhere enough to help manage contact tracing. Read more. This process is also passive as it depends on the individual , when a proactive approach is needed.
Yes, every little helps but why not make all businesses use something like the apps which are already on the market, where the government could have access to the data, and have all commercially produced systems certified so that the public can be confident in the process. I know we would be happy to go through a certification process.
“The data would be stored in users’ devices, rather than held by businesses”
As recently as a few days ago there was a statement on a government website which stated that “Apps which allow the user to retain the data on their own device do not comply with the Contact Tracing protocols” I can’t tell which site it was, because the statement has been removed – funny that!
“That’s just really responding to some of the concerns I’ve heard and seen, some people don’t want to fill in a paper-based form that will sit in a public place.
Say What? Paper logs were never going to work and exposed people to risk. The risk of using a shared form and a shared pen. The risk that someone using the form could steal your private data etc. Yet this is the form that has been promoted and is still on the website in the “Business Toolkit”  
“Others have concerns using apps provided by businesses”
Who are these “Others” and what is the evidence that there is a risk with businesses using apps that have been built by kiwis wanting to help kiwis? If any business misuses the data they collect then there is legislation such as the Privacy Act to deal with them, as it should.
Also was the governments app built by government employed coders or was it contacted out to a third party. I think we know the answer to this and if it was contracted out was this a tender process to find the best provider, what was the criteria and what has it cost taxpayers for this “temporary” solution. Also, what happens to all the data and cost associated with this app when the government rolls our the 100 million dollar National Bluetooth card which is still under consideration.
The reality is that New Zealand tech entrepreneurs stepped up well before the government to solve this problem and now there is the implication that these apps are not suitable and even not to be trusted. Again where is the evidence?
“This is an option that means someone can hold their own data for themselves and feel assured about that”
Again what is the evidence, not hearsay, that people want to hold their own data and are feeling uncomfortable with it being recorded. At the end of the day it is still being recorded. And how does this work in relation to the earlier advice that keeping your own data is not ok.
“It’s in case in the future you find yourself with Covid-19 you’ve got an easy reference to tell where you’ve been.”
But what if I miss a couple of places. How will I know.  What if I go somewhere which has an outbreak and I don’t see the news about it. How will I know. And how will they know I was there so they can Contact Trace me?
“Where did the COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund go?”
Last week I was sent a link to information regarding this fund by someone associated with the Minister of Finance as I had a asked if the government was considering support for Contact Tracing vendors to enable us/them to provide our apps at a reduced price to help SME’s.  Then on the weekend I saw a statement on a vendors website that they had been “Chosen” by MBIE to provide an app for free.  So I sent a followup message to the Finance Minister and the Minister for MBIE asking if this was the case and what the criteria had been in this selection if it were true – no reply, nothing, crickets and low and behold the information page is no more? Where did it go and did the fund go with it. Something seem off with all this.
I fully get that this is a very challenging situation for the PM and her ministers to deal with and they have to be mindful of the speed at which this virus spreads and its impact on public health. Plus they need to balance the impact on the public, businesses, the health system and the vendors like us, who have put their own time and money into building systems for the public and businesses to use.
But I think the saying my grandfather used to use – “Measure Twice, Cut Once’ could apply here.
Lets get this right the first time – “Festina lente – more haste, less speed”


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