From our Swindon Correspondent:
From the BBC
In a major U-turn, the UK is ditching the way its current coronavirus-tracing app works and shifting to a model based on technology provided by Apple and Google.
The Apple-Google design has been promoted as being more privacy-focused.
However, it means epidemiologists will have access to less data.
Based on my observations, there’s a really big difference between private and public sector software development. The private sector is more about seeking value, getting what you need, maybe a few wants, but if something doesn’t add much value, they don’t do it. The public sector is more about specifying to the letter, and if they’ve got the budget, doing it.
This can have dramatic effects with software, because sometimes it can make the difference between a service that costs you £10/month/user and spending tens of thousands on something custom made. Sure, the custom made one fits exactly, but it’s hugely expensive.
The NHS has been testing both systems against each other, over the course of the past month.
The centralised version trialled on the Isle of Wight worked well at assessing the distance between two users, but was poor at recognising Apple’s iPhones.
Specifically, the software registered about 75% of nearby Android handsets but only 4% of iPhones.
The other difference in the private vs public is that people really care if it works in the private sector. And I don’t mean what is stated, but the results of it. People get poorer from their mistakes in the private sector. They don’t in the public sector. So, they’re more careful about making sure it works. They lean towards a reliable solution that does 98% of what they need over something that does 100% of what they need but might not work.
At the Downing Street briefing, Health Secretary Matt Hancock suggested the original plan might have worked had it not been for Apple’s restrictions on third-party apps’ use of Bluetooth.
And the final difference is that the people in charge of private sector organisations generally aren’t living in a world of how we’d like it to be, but instead take constraints seriously. Apple were asked to do this by the NHS and refused. At that point, you have a constraint. That constraint affects the design. To proceed with the custom version after that is folly, a huge waste of public time and money. That we put people like this in charge of billions of pounds of spending on the NHS is why government is such a disaster.