BC in adopting the COVID Alert app? (Published 2020.09.24 updated 10.02)

One thing most people (excluding those who may actually wear tinfoil hats) can acknowledge is the existence of a pandemic. It has far reaching effects on people including both health and mental health, and the world economy.

Understanding that, there are certainly strategies people are using to balance their need to keep business working (we can't pay for the beneifts we are using if we suffer a complete collapse), with the health and safety.

So WHY is the BC government so slow in adopting the new COVID app?

What is the app?

To address an unprecidented need to enable contact tracing in a safe way, Apple and Google cooperated in creating the API which is the basis of the gold standard for all these apps (see https://www.apple.com/ca/newsroom/2020/04/apple-and-google-partner-on-covid-19-contact-tracing-technology/). The app basically listens for your "neighbours" when you are walking around with Bluetooth enabled. The information is not logged by the government, your location is not tracked, your privacy is not violated. When someone receives a positive test, they would receive a code. When you enter that code, the code is available to other app users when they check their exposure - no one can know who you are, or where you were. That information is never stored anywhere. 

Here's a "how it works" document: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/covid-alert.html#a2

Here's a link to a video explaining the process in detail: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/video/covid-alert.html


Won't they get our information?

NO! Read above - your location, name, address, etc. are NEVER collected or stored.


So what's going on?

I was surprised how Canada came up with this app so fast until I learned how Google and Apple both cooperated to make these apps easy to create. What has to happen though is for the provinces to populate the test results - i.e. use the system the federal government provided to create and issue the codes so people can know quickly if they were exposed without waiting for the contact tracers (which have had failures) to contact them...

Here's a link to the app information main page: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19/covid-alert.html

And here's some important stats:

The Android version has over 1 million installs… https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca.gc.hcsc.canada.stopcovid

The Apple version doesn’t publish download stats I think https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/id1520284227

But although it’s working in 4 provinces now (New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Saskatchewan), I don’t hear anyone asking when this will be implemented and I really fear this is another time our government will start postulating about a “made in BC solution”… when what we need is for the province to start using the system that exists.

With cases growing, and the various government bodies, heath units etc. failing to agree on and efficiently disclose exposure, this app makes all that easy!

If you are aware of anyone pushing them on this / any news articles or anything I’d be happy to hear – I haven’t seen or heard anything yet. It seems like a great app. 

If you need more context or explanation I’m happy to help! Making tech stuff understandable is part of our job and are told we do it well 😉

Please push people to adopt this app and help stop the spread? There's NO risk / reason not to.

Thank you.


2020-10-01 FINALLY there's some news coverage!

2020-09-30: https://biv.com/article/2020/10/rollout-covid-app-remains-murky-bc

2020-10-01: https://www.nsnews.com/news/rollout-of-covid-app-remains-murky-for-b-c-1.24213867

I posted a comment on the nsnews site through their form:

THANK YOU! I've been trying to raise awareness of this ongoing issue for some time now. Once again we are waiting for BC to catch up and a "made in BC solution".  I just had an epiphany though. The reason this happens time and time again regardless of the political party at the head of government must be that the incompetence lies with the bureaucrats outside of political office.  We don't need new features and IF WE DO THEY CAN BE ADDED AFTER THE FACT. The time to act is now. With the mishmash of policies among health boards and school districts one consistent app is needed. There is ZERO risk to privacy. If anything it may not go far enough as it does rely on people recording their positive test themselves. Its SO private that the government can not trace location OR publish your test because the app doesn't know who you are. More resources are here. Please push your MP and MLA to make this thing active so we can recover. We can't wait for them to do it on their schedule while more people die.

This week I spoke with a couple healthcare workers (ER) who were under the impression the app was supported and working. Lack of clear communcation seems to be occuring if people on the front lines are lead to believe tools are working when they are not.

Have also reached out to my local MLA Bob D'Eith (https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us/members/41st-Parliament/D'Eith-Bob / @BobDEithMRM) via twitter for his comment.

Tried that with some mainstream media ealier (various CKNW hosts, local news outlets). Need more people to take up an interest in this and pressure their MLA for action.


Updates here - please read on... this is where it gets interesting!

2020-10-02 More COVID Alert news coverage. Sometimes it's bad to be right.