Welcome To Zelo Street!

This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Friday 19 June 2020

“World Beating” Covid-19 App BINNED

Alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson told the Commons last month that England would have a “world beating” Covid-19 tracing system in place by this month. An app was already being trialled on the Isle of Wight. But by this week, it was acknowledged that all was not well with the app. The Guardian had the bad news.
The mobile phone contact-tracing app to tell people they may have been exposed to Covid-19, once a central part of the government’s response to the pandemic, will not be ready before the winter, a health minister has said”. And the excuse? “Lord Bethell of Romford, the minister responsible for the smartphone app, said that it was not a priority for the government at the moment”. And then the app was unceremoniously binned.

Cue screeching U-Turn. “The government has been forced to abandon a centralised coronavirus contact-tracing app after spending three months and millions of pounds on technology that experts had repeatedly warned would not work. In an embarrassing U-turn, Matt Hancock said the NHS would switch to an alternative designed by the US tech companies Apple and Google, which is months away from being ready”.
What was the problem? “Work started in March as the pandemic unfolded, but despite weeks of work, officials admitted on Thursday that the NHS app only recognised 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Google Android devices during testing on the Isle of Wight. That was because the design of Apple’s iPhone operating system is such that apps quickly go to sleep when they are not being used and cannot be activated by Bluetooth”.

So far, so embarrassing, but there are now two headaches for Bozo and his pals. One, as Dan Bloom of the Mirror picked up. Matt Hancock claimed yesterday that “We backed two horses” - that two apps were being worked on. But last month they weren’t: “There is no alternative app and the NHS continues to work constructively with many other organisations that are helping to develop and test the NHS COVID-19 App”.
And Two, as Byline Times has reported, “An artificial intelligence firm previously hired by Dominic Cummings to work on the Vote Leave campaign has been intimately involved in R&D for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) contact tracing app … On Friday 1 May, Faculty AI’s co-founding chief executive Marc Warner wrote in The Times that ‘despite claims by some, we are not working on the contact tracing app’”. There is more.

However, a paper published by Oxford University’s Big Data Institute appears to contradict this flat denial, confirming that Faculty is directly involved in the modelling research that will ‘configure’ and ‘optimise’ the NHSX app”. The Guardian showed that, in early May, “Faculty’s chief executive, Marc Warner, attended a meeting of the government’s scientific advisory group on emergencies (Sage)”. And more.
The firm’s first high-profile contract was supplying data science services to the Vote Leave campaign, which [Dominic] Cummings ran before becoming Boris Johnson’s chief political adviser”. Millions have been pointlessly thrown at an app that doesn’t work. And, time and again, it keeps coming back to the whims of the Polecat. So, er, Cui Bono, Dom?

The saga of the aborted NHS app does not prove corruption. But you can see it from there.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at



Arnold said...

They've found a Galaxy-beating app.

Anonymous said...

And today's distraction from this important story... A spurious number has spuriously changed from 4 to 3.
Classic timing. Classic Dom.

AndyC said...

Another reason for the Tories to be fanning so-called culture wars to deflect. As everything Johnson touches turns to sh*t before our very eyes it becomes ever clearer they have nothing else.

Ferdy Fox said...

Wankers, one and all!

Anonymous said...

Wank, wanker, wankers