Tameside Council spend thousands on an iPhone app

September 28, 2010 6:01 PM

Once again, Tameside Council is demonstrating its beacon status of wasting taxpayers' money. You may remember my last article about Tameside Council's 60 Second News where I briefly mentioned their £36,000 virtual town hall. Well, since that was reported, they have commissioned an iPhone application at a cost of £5,731 to the taxpayer – an application that has only managed a paltry 222 downloads since its launch in August.


The ‘Buy with Confidence’ application allows people to find information which is readily available on the web - something which iPhones and other modern smartphones are perfectly capable of doing already. The user inputs their postcode and finds local businesses which have been approved by Tameside Council's trading standards department. Businesses need to apply to partake in the scheme, yet only 170 in the borough have bothered to apply since its launch last year as part of the Tameside Works First scheme - which has already absorbed £12m of the council’s budget.


Tameside Council's ‘Buy with Confidence’ application was funded by IDeA's Local Innovation Awards Scheme. How it is innovative is beyond me, as there are already many location-based applications which allow people to find what they need nearest to them. Rather, this is yet another case of the public sector thinking it can reinvent the wheel when there are already many open source or commercial alternatives already available.


According to the FOI response I got, the project was a joint effort done in-house and with a contractor. 216.5 hours were spent developing the application at a cost of £4295. A further two hours were spent by a systems analyst at a cost of £41.46, and £59 was paid to Apple to register the application. It's unfortunate then that Tameside Council skimped on Quality Assurance testing, as just days after the release they had to release a bugfix which corrected issues which "effected (sic) some users where distance information was not accurate" - it kind of defeats the object of having a location-based application if distance information isn't correct. A further fix was "changed database updating mechanism to automatically check and prompt for updates." That's funny, because Tameside Council had included that functionality in the original specification document.


Despite spending a further £1335 on a radio advertisement and another YouTube video campaign - which to date has only gained 120 views - the application has managed to attract a pathetic 222 downloads as of the 19th of September 2010. Considering the application was launched on the 25th of August, that's an average of less than 9 downloads per day. Given Tameside's population of 214,000 people, this would suggest – at best – that the application is used by a mere 0.1% of the population. The aim of the application was to reduce the amount of leaflets and printed directories the council produces. So if you divide the cost by the number of downloads, it costs £25.82 per download - nowhere near as much as it would cost to print a leaflet or directory.


You would have thought that Tameside Council would have learnt its lesson by now by not spending money on yet more frivolous nonsense just to make itself appear innovative and revolutionary among its public sector peers and to give itself a pat on the back at expensive awards ceremonies. What really matters is what the public think - and given the lack of interest from the public on these schemes, you would have thought Tameside Council would have given up by now.


Once again, Tameside Council is demonstrating its beacon status of wasting taxpayers' money. You may remember my last article about Tameside Council's 60 Second News where I briefly mentioned their £36,000 virtual town hall. Well, since that was reported, they have commissioned an iPhone application at a cost of £5,731 to the taxpayer – an application that has only managed a paltry 222 downloads since its launch in August.


The ‘Buy with Confidence’ application allows people to find information which is readily available on the web - something which iPhones and other modern smartphones are perfectly capable of doing already. The user inputs their postcode and finds local businesses which have been approved by Tameside Council's trading standards department. Businesses need to apply to partake in the scheme, yet only 170 in the borough have bothered to apply since its launch last year as part of the Tameside Works First scheme - which has already absorbed £12m of the council’s budget.


Tameside Council's ‘Buy with Confidence’ application was funded by IDeA's Local Innovation Awards Scheme. How it is innovative is beyond me, as there are already many location-based applications which allow people to find what they need nearest to them. Rather, this is yet another case of the public sector thinking it can reinvent the wheel when there are already many open source or commercial alternatives already available.


According to the FOI response I got, the project was a joint effort done in-house and with a contractor. 216.5 hours were spent developing the application at a cost of £4295. A further two hours were spent by a systems analyst at a cost of £41.46, and £59 was paid to Apple to register the application. It's unfortunate then that Tameside Council skimped on Quality Assurance testing, as just days after the release they had to release a bugfix which corrected issues which "effected (sic) some users where distance information was not accurate" - it kind of defeats the object of having a location-based application if distance information isn't correct. A further fix was "changed database updating mechanism to automatically check and prompt for updates." That's funny, because Tameside Council had included that functionality in the original specification document.


Despite spending a further £1335 on a radio advertisement and another YouTube video campaign - which to date has only gained 120 views - the application has managed to attract a pathetic 222 downloads as of the 19th of September 2010. Considering the application was launched on the 25th of August, that's an average of less than 9 downloads per day. Given Tameside's population of 214,000 people, this would suggest – at best – that the application is used by a mere 0.1% of the population. The aim of the application was to reduce the amount of leaflets and printed directories the council produces. So if you divide the cost by the number of downloads, it costs £25.82 per download - nowhere near as much as it would cost to print a leaflet or directory.


You would have thought that Tameside Council would have learnt its lesson by now by not spending money on yet more frivolous nonsense just to make itself appear innovative and revolutionary among its public sector peers and to give itself a pat on the back at expensive awards ceremonies. What really matters is what the public think - and given the lack of interest from the public on these schemes, you would have thought Tameside Council would have given up by now.


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