Germany has its Covid-19 app, so where's the UK's?


Around the world, major countries are unveiling new contact-tracing apps as they emerge from lockdown.

Germany has just launched a decentralised app based on the Apple and Google platform. Switzerland, Ireland and Austria are testing theirs. And Japan is said to be unveiling something similar, with the help of Microsoft, later this week.


So the inhabitants of an island just off the south coast of England could be forgiven for asking - has everybody forgotten about us?


Six weeks ago, a trial of the NHS contact-tracing app was launched on the Isle of Wight with great fanfare. Islanders were urged to download it, almost as a patriotic duty - with the prospect that successful testing would lead to a national rollout, at least across England, a couple of weeks later.


The NHS team was quick to claim early success with over 55,000 downloads, something like 60% of the people whose mobile phones were capable of downloading it.


As the weeks went by islanders were assured that much was being learned, even if this early version of the app was quite limited - it sends rather vague messages to people who might have been in contact with someone who has reported symptoms.


Then everything went quiet.


There was no information about the data that had been gathered - how many alerts had been sent out, how people had reacted.


A new version of the app with more questions about symptoms and with test requests and results integrated into the process was due to have been launched last Tuesday, but the date came and went without any update.


Meanwhile, both ministers and Baroness Dido Harding, who is running the wider Test and Trace programme, have stonewalled questions about the app.


"App? What app? Oh that thing that we were so excited about back in April…," characterises a typical response.


The best thing they can say about it is that it will be the cherry on the cake of contact tracing, rather than the cake itself. As for a timetable, they are no longer willing to provide one.


Hand-holding

This has left the people of the Isle of Wight somewhat baffled.


Among them is a man who has spent a career building commercial apps and knows a bit about the complexities of a launch.


In late May, Steve Clark, who now runs a tech consultancy from the Isle of Wight, blogged some