Wikipedia founder: 'This contact tracing app situation in the UK is the height of incompetence'

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The NHS coronavirus contact tracing app which has been trialled by the Isle of Wight residents - Steve Parsons/PA
The NHS coronavirus contact tracing app which has been trialled by the Isle of Wight residents - Steve Parsons/PA
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Mr Wales has claimed he can launch a German-style contact-tracing app in the UK within ‘two weeks’, as he blasted the NHS’s aborted effort as the ‘height of incompetence’.

Jimmy Wales, who founded the online encyclopedia in 2001, said he could build a version of the app that runs on Apple and Google’s software at ‘zero cost to the taxpayers’ if the NHS agreed.

His offer came as the Government axed its attempt to build its own version of the contact tracing NHS app yesterday to switch over to the Apple and Google model, which has been adopted by most other European countries.

Speaking on Twitter yesterday, Mr Wales, 53, said: “If the NHS will support it, I could roll out the German Corona-Warn-App (privacy respecting, official diagnosis rather than self-reporting as I understand it) in [a] short time at zero cost to the taxpayers. If the government can't pull themselves together, we can.

“This contact tracing app situation in the UK is the height of incompetence on so many levels.”

The American entrepreneur later added he could “roll it out in 2 weeks time” using the software already made available by Apple and Google.

Coronavirus podcast - Was the NHS contact tracing app doomed from the start? 19/06/20 (doesn't auto update)
Coronavirus podcast - Was the NHS contact tracing app doomed from the start? 19/06/20 (doesn't auto update)

Germany, who were referenced by Mr Wales, launched their contact-tracing, based on the Apple and Google version, on Tuesday after ditching their own version back in April.

The UK Government has not set a new date for when it’s new contact tracing app, which uses the bluetooth connections on people’s phones to register when they come into close contact that could spread the virus, will be released. On Tuesday, health minister Lord Bethell said it may not be launched until the winter.

Yesterday, privacy activists criticised the Government for taking so long to abandon its app, which collects data from users unlike the Apple and Google version. 

Silkie Carlo, the director of the privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch, said: “This has been a slow motion car crash. It shows how ill-judged the centralised, data-hungry approach was. We warned the Government’s disregard for privacy was out of touch with public concerns and the app wouldn’t work. 

“The Government has now wasted precious time and millions of pounds of public money on a failed approach that they were warned was going to fail, and now we’re back at square one.”

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