Today is a day of mixed emotions for me. The UK's COVID tracing app is finally closing.
The app was, by any reasonable measure, a success.
A team of experts at the Pandemic Sciences Institute at the University of Oxford and Department of Statistics at the University of Warwick estimate the NHS COVID-19 app prevented around 1 million cases, 44,000 hospitalisations and 9,600 deaths during its first year.
Earlier this year, I recorded a short video about what it was like working on the app and making it Open Source.
I kept a detailed diary of my experiences working at NHSX. It was a surreal time - I went from one day casually presenting PowerPoints to the next day urgently briefing Chief Scientific Advisors. I worked longer and harder than I ever had before.
I had prominent members of the commentariat accuse me of being an overpaid, Eton-educated, management consultant (wrong on all three counts!) I was told I was helping usher in mass surveillance while, simultaneously, being criticised for not getting the app out sooner. I had to tell some rather strong personalities that what they wanted wasn't technically possible - and then work out why what should have worked wasn't working.
Memorably, someone told me that open-sourcing the app was irresponsible because Open Source was just ShareWare! Yeah, I don't understand that either...
Our work was mentioned on national - and international - broadcasts. It was literally front-page news.
And now... it's over.
Have we beaten COVID? It'll probably never be eradicated, but the data are looking hopeful.
I'm so proud of what the whole team accomplished. I'm grateful that I had a chance to help build something so effective and make it open source.
I know it is a little weird to think of an app like this as a start-up. But that's how it felt at the time. And I know all good products are eventually obsolete. But I'm still a little sad that it's over.
So tonight I'll be drinking a toast to the app - and all those who worked so hard on it.
All within the NHS's alcohol consumption guidance of course!
8 thoughts on “So, farewell then COVID-19 App”
@Edent congratulations and great post!
@Edent Thank you.
Markov Unchained 😷🇪🇺🍸 says:
@Edent There was a moment there when England, Wales, Scotland, N Ireland, Republic of Ireland all had an app based on the Google-Apple Exposure Notification API. So did most of Europe and most of the states in the USA. At least some of them interoperated.
The wikipedia page needs an extra column for the deployments that have been closed and when. There's not many left.
Exposure Notification - Wikipedia
Lars Marowsky-Brée 😷 says:
@Edent @neil This is also the last week for Germany's #CoronaWarnApp - which was also successful, widely lauded as an exemplary public-private sector Open Source collaboration.Because, of course, we no longer need any way to trace infections diseases population-wide.This all makes sense and is not ridiculous.
Tim is wearing a mask 🌈 says:
@Edent its final act should be to play the ping of exposure to everyone.
David Corney says:
@Edent Thank you for the app and for the blog posts. Both very helpful in their own ways!
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