Test and Trace app ditched in favour of Google and Apple model

On 5th May, I posted about the launch of the trial of the contact tracing app that was going to be the lynchpin of the “Test and Trace” system. Click here for Isle of Wight app launch. Today, the NHS has abandoned the attempt to build a centralised coronavirus contact-tracing app and will instead switch to the model preferred by the technology firms Apple and Google.

An Isle of Wight resident poses with his smartphone showing the NHS Covid-19 app

The embarrassing U-turn comes after officials concluded it was technically impossible to create an effective app that did not conform to the Google and Apple model, but that a straight switch to their model would not solve all the problems. They said there were also significant problems with the Google–Apple approach and they hoped to find a “third way” by working with the two firms to create a tracing app that would work.

Guido Fawkes has  repeatedly warned that the NHS would have to ditch the the “bug filled, battery draining, and privacy invading, in-house, centralised app”. Back in May, he  reported that the NHS “bizarrely rejected the decentralised, secure and intelligently designed Apple-Google contact tracing framework in favour of a centralised approach.” Guido’s experts then comprehensively rebutted the health departments arguments, concluding by saying:

“Why is the NHS trying to develop its own entire infrastructure and app rather than use a system developed by some of the world’s best software engineers at Apple and Google? Why do you think you know better than the people who literally wrote the operating system? We hope the Government has not got it wrong on this IT project this time…“

Matthew Lesh, the Head of Research at the ASI tells Guido

“We have lost crucial time, but it is welcome that the Government has listened to public concerns to get this important project right. It was always folly for NHSX to try building an app from scratch. Despite assertions, it was never going to work as well or ensure privacy would be protected as the Apple-Google framework.

The decentralised, Apple-Google approach will protect privacy, work across borders, limit battery drain, and effectively work in the background. A more effective app will help protect the NHS and save lives as winter approaches.”

Better late than never…or as Matt Hancock memorably said at today’s press briefing ” the cherry on Dido’s cake” ……(Dido Harding, head of NHS Test and Trace

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