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Critics say Healthy Utah app too expensive, state officials fire back

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – Critics are claiming the Healthy Utah coronavirus app is too expensive. Officials are pushing back against the critics saying the state paid far too much to develop the Healthy Utah coronavirus contact tracing app.  They’re calling it a “meaningful down payment” to protect the health and safety of people in the state.

The Deseret News reports the state entered into a $2.75 million contract with Twenty, the developers of the Healthy Utah app.  A spokesperson for the developers explains it was an initial $1.75 million contract, with an additional $1 million to further develop the app.  Plus, the state could pay $300 thousand every month in support fees for up to a million users.

Some state lawmakers, like Representative Andrew Stoddard, say that’s an “extremely high” price tag.  He tweeted a post saying, “I recognize the need during times of emergency to expedite the process and that things may be more expensive, but this seems absurd.  There was no burning need in our state for an app that asks us how we feel each day.” 

(Screenshots from the Healthy Utah app. Credit: Utah Governor’s Office)

However, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget says the money was well-spent.  Spokesman Colby Oliverson sent KSL a statement saying the coronavirus app has already made it easier for users to connect with testing when they need it, and that the app will get more useful over time.   

The statement reads, “Utah is invested in aggressively testing for COVID-19 and testing for its presence in our communities.  The state’s investment in Healthy Together is a meaningful down payment in the short-term and long-term health of our state, giving ordinary Utahns and public health workers the tools and information they need to effectively combat coronavirus.”

Since the coronavirus app was unveiled, roughly 40 thousand people have downloaded it, and a spokesperson for Twenty says over 100 thousand symptom assessments have been done in the past two weeks.  Spokesperson Meredith Kelly sent a statement saying the state will announce additional features on the app in the coming weeks, which will streamline communication between the state and public health officials.

As for the high price tag, Kelly states the company has spent tens of millions of dollars developing software that works with both Apple and Android applications.  She says Twenty has had to create technology uniquely suited to that challenge.