BC (& AB) in adopting the COVID Alert app? Part 2. More news coverage.

2020-10-02 More COVID Alert news coverage. Sometimes it's bad to be right.

First, if you are coming here directly there was an earlier article. It's linked here: https://www.bitblock.com/blog/whats-wrong-with/94-bc-in-adopting-the-covid-alert-app

 

Tonight, I found another article. https://globalnews.ca/news/7369875/canadians-access-covid-alert-app/

Finally. People are starting to pay attention to the issue. The article mentions some key details I'd forgotten - worth a read. One of them is that the federal government can't force the provinces to adopt the app. I'm sure given time they could find a way to coerce them. But that's a problem due to the delay.

Here's the really troubling part - about half way down the article we see:

Alberta, meanwhile, told Global News it wants to use COVID Alert, but prefers its residents are able to “seamlessly transition” over to the federal app from an existing provincial app that cost roughly $650,000 to create.

B.C., which has seen a recent spike in new cases, also said it wants to use the federal app, adding that it is working with developers to see how it can be “tailored to be supportive of the contact tracing” that public health officials in the province are already doing.

 

Starting in Alberta.

The problem in Alberta, is that they seem to wan their residents to have a nice user experience when changin apps. Seriously?!?! In a time of pandemic, with a second wave fast approaching, and rising case numbers, Alberta wants to make sure the upgrade path is polished... to be fair, Alberta has more at stake than BC. They published their own app. Why? Who knows... fifedom building within the IT department or a legitimate desire to avoid waiting on the federal goverment? I could believe either. Fifedom building is a strategy - sometimes concious, sometimes unconcious where people in a department try to ensure their importance to a business. So it could have been self serving. On the other hand, the bigger a government project, the more likely someone will do something stupid to delay it. Alberta is one of the more fiercely independent provinces in our confederation. So it's also possible they feared endless delays on the federal side.

The Alberta app is linked from https://www.alberta.ca/ab-trace-together.aspx#download on both Google and Apple stores as (all of these apps are). Remember, Google and Apple's cooperation was underlying the technical cooperation that made the strategy possible in record time.

But lets consider the facts. At this time, Alberta has "50K+" downloads (2020-10-02 @ 1:19AM Pacific). And there's more... if you look at https://www.appbrain.com/app/abtracetogether/ca.albertahealthservices.contacttracing you can find that the version history looks like this:

Changelog

  • Jun 16, 2020 UPDATE Version 1.2.0
  • May 28, 2020 UPDATE Version 1.1.0
  • May 20, 2020 INSTALLS 50,000+ installs
  • May 7, 2020 UPDATE Version 1.0.1
  • Apr 28, 2020 NEW APP Version 1.0.0 in HEALTH_FITNESS for Free

Not bad! However the app is plagued (bad choice of words?) by bad reviews. 2.6 stars for 557 reviews at the time of this note.

How about the federal app? Details here: https://www.appbrain.com/app/covid-alert/ca.gc.hcsc.canada.stopcovid

 Well it was published 3 months after the Alberta app...

Changelog

  • Sep 25, 2020 INSTALLS 1,000,000+ installs
  • Sep 16, 2020 UPDATE Version 1.0.7
  • Aug 20, 2020 UPDATE Version 1.0.4
  • Aug 6, 2020 UPDATE Version 1.0.3
  • Aug 6, 2020 INSTALLS 500,000+ installs
  • Jul 28, 2020 NEW APP Version 1.0.2 in HEALTH_FITNESS for Free

3.6 stars for 4212 reviews. That's more than 30% better and a reviewer pool size 7.5 times larger.

Lets focus on one more detail. For being published 3 months earlier, the Alberta app only has around 50,000 users. The federal app? Over ONE MILLION. That's like 1 in 35 Canadian's is already running the federal app.

So WHY is Alberta dragging their feet?

At this point, I can't help thinking it's more about defending the Fifedom.

What do you think my AB cousins??

 

Now on to BC.

In BC there is a common saying from the mouths of the political elite. "We need a made in BC solution" - you can Google this - with the quotes and find hundreds of examples of people saying this. There's something here in BC that makes people think we can do something better or more applicable to us. In this case I firmly belive they are wrong.

Lets consider what was said about the delay in BC:

B.C., which has seen a recent spike in new cases, also said it wants to use the federal app, adding that it is working with developers to see how it can be “tailored to be supportive of the contact tracing” that public health officials in the province are already doing.

This right here explains the lack of response to requests for comment on this issue so far in BC. It explains the lack of or misinformation in the hands of many of the first responders I've spoke to.

BC is waiting on a BC solution while people get sick and die in the interests of those organizing the rather massive human effort at contact tracing.

In a city of over 82,000 people we currently have no fully operating testing center because it's being moved to a new location. Its not operating in the new location, but it will be when it's ready. Meanwhile our neighbours drive to Coquitlam or Surrey or Abbotsford. There's no phone number, no sign, even though both those things are easily possible (hey I know someone with a phone company...).

So what can we do? Please help me make some noise?

Here's the real trouble. What they are asking for is a BIG problem. The process the phones use to identify and check for and to log "close contacts" is not directly accessible to the government. Cell phone companies, and most savvy devlopers have to think responsibly about what they are doing because once they put something out in the world, it's very hard to stop. You have heard of Pandora's box?

If Google and Apple created a system to log your location to to a "government database" it would be used. Law enforcement might try to justify access. Criminals and hackers would have a new high value target. And the users would LOSE THEIR MINDS. People would disable Bluetooth. They would refuse the update. And all that would make the tool useless. So they did what they could. They created a system where YOU have a record of people you've "contacted", and when someone with good moral character gets a positive result and enters their confirmation, anyone who as seen their non-traceable secret id without location history will get notified. The app relies on the same process as an STI test, but without the awkward phone call. Each person you infected gets a notification that they were exposed. But you never risk the awkward glare across the apple tray in the grocery store.

There is no data to track. And trying to add that will mean the unravelling of other things and would have to be done outside of the core functions of the secure tracing.

This would mean people would have to opt in for more permissions, and have to trust people who can't keep our own CRA (like the IRS for my US friends) secure. People won't do it BC.

Please stop trying. Please let us use the app before more people die?

 

What now?

To people reading this. Please share... and PLEASE don't let the people delaying our use of this tool or trying to cover ass / defend their decisions and probably their salaries when we should all be using the darn app that's ready.

 

Hopefully some action will come of people increasing their awareness of the issue.

8 days ago there was no news published on this. Now we have 3 articles.

Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe you can help.

 

Thank you.

 

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