Many government apps have high price tag and few downloads

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) recently released access-to-information documents showing the cost of developing government smartphone apps, with some downloaded fewer than a thousand times, and per-download costs as high as $112.

“This should be a warning signal to the government that many of the apps it is creating are a terrible use of taxpayers’ money,” said CTF Federal Director Aaron Wudrick. For example, Parks Canada spent $40,000 on a ‘photo missions’ app that was only downloaded 1,085 times, for a perdownload cost of $37.

“Spending $40,000 to have a thousand people take photos in a national park does not seem reasonable,” continued Wudrick. The CTF  led several access to information requests to obtain the cost and popularity of several government departments and Crown corporations, including Veterans Affairs, Parks Canada and the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Wudrick noted that some apps were clearly for important causes, such as a post-traumatic stress disorder coaching app created by Veterans A airs, which cost $74,131 and was downloaded 4,255 times for a per-download cost of $17. But another Veterans Affairs app, Veterans Matter, cost taxpayers $175,933 and was downloaded just 1,574 times for a perdownload cost of $112.

“In some cases, these apps simply replicate information that is available on government websites,” said Wudrick. “Was spending $175,000 on an app that was only used by a
handful of Canadians the best use of that money? The government needs to quit trying to be seen as tech-savvy when these numbers show they’re anything but.”