The federal government spent $16.5 million taxpayer dollars developing and marketing a phone application designed to alert Canadians of potential exposure to coronavirus, according to Blacklock's Reporter.
$480,000 was budgeted for developing the COVID Alert app, while the remaining $16 million was used to market it to Canadians.
"We know solid data is the foundation for making the right public policy decisions," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said upon the announcement of the app last June. "This is an approach we are confident is going to make a big difference."
According to Trudeau, "health experts say if enough people sign up this app can help prevent future outbreaks of COVID-19 in Canada." He said it would become "extraordinarily useful" if the app had "a fifty percent uptake."
In a blow to the federal government's coronavirus strategy, the app was ultimately downloaded by less than one-fifth of Canadian mobile users, roughly 6.4 million people. Only 0.33 percent of users, 21,048 people, were confirmed to have been infected with coronavirus. The number represents just 2.3% of the nearly one million confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada.
It is unclear how many of the COVID-positive users learned of their exposure to the virus through the app itself. "Data will be available in the coming weeks for the number of notifications stemming from the entry of onetime keys," Public Health Agency staff wrote in an email.
The app allows users to have their movements tracked, with those who have tested positive for coronavirus being given the option to report their infection using a key code. Other users of the app who have been in proximity of those users would then be alerted of their potential exposure to the virus.
The app's features are not available in every province and territory, however. Alberta, British Columbia, Nunavut, and Yukon did not adopt the app despite federal pressure to do so.
Numerous Liberal Party politicians praised the development of the app, with former Industry Minister Navdeep Bains describing it as an "innovative [solution] to assist in reopening the economy"
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, also defended the app, saying that "[it] was never going to be 100 percent perfect, but please, every little bit helps and I don’t think we should dismiss it."
When asked if the app was a "flop," Tam responded that the government was "waiting to see the collaboration that can take place with other jurisdictions."
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