ArriveCAN: What Went Wrong?

ArriveCAN: What Went Wrong?

We’ve all heard of ArriveCAN: the travel app designed to speed up the travelling experience that has ended up costing the Canadian taxpayer over $54M.

While it has a 4.5-star rating in the app store, meaning users are happy with its functionality, many have been critical of the total cost of this government project.

Especially since the app was recently recreated by a developer costing less than $1M in less than 48 hours, prompting the question, what went wrong?

We’ve looked at the costing sheet to see where the money has been spent and how the ArriveCAN team could have improved the process.

No Clear Plan or Strategy

An app that has required over $8.8K worth of updates for over 70 versions of the code, each providing a new feature, clearly needed a more straightforward plan or strategy. The team appears to have overlooked many things.

Cybersecurity seems to have been considered an afterthought, with over $2.5M spent to improve it. In fact, top Canadian mobile app developers recommend you design with security at each stage of the development lifecycle to avoid expensive problems like this arising later on in the pipeline.

In addition to this, developers made $1.7M worth of changes to make the app accessible for users with disabilities. This obvious oversight in the initial app design could undoubtedly have been avoided if designing with a customer-centric focus.

Since the initial version of the app cost the government a mere $80K to create, it’s evident that things needed to be considered in the initial creation of the code, which could have reduced the overall price if planned from the beginning.

Too Complicated

The app, in its original form, provided a way for travellers to show their Covid-19 vaccination status and start the process of opening up borders.

It has since been expanded to include customs and immigration functions which will have complicated the app’s code and structure for the developers.

So, what started as a simple method of providing proof of vaccination has become a mesh of different functionalities, sticky taped together

Too Expensive

A recent analysis of spending by Globe and Mail found that the app is on track to cost more than $54 million. And, since the app is now just optional on entry to Canada, the total cost of build and maintenance has been brought into question for the Canadian people.

We mentioned earlier the cost of cybersecurity and accessibility as an afterthought. Other prices include $4.6M for cloud hosting services, $4.5M on IT system administration costs, $4.5M on technical support for travellers, and $1.6M for internal project management costs.

For an app that saves “about five minutes” in line each time travellers cross the border, according to the CBSA, it seems like a significant cost burden to carry for not much pay-off.

So, in summary, the ArriveCAN team could have reduced the cost of the app with a clear strategy outlining the essential functions of the app, keeping it simple and with their end user in mind.